The 7th International Elephant Race festival came to an end in Nepal yesterday with the pachyderms winning an array of titles.

In the competition, the first such in the nation, a svelte 28-year-old walked away with the prize after defeating two other finalists.

The mahouts -- the elephants' keepers -- worked hard on their charges' looks. The pachyderms were bathed, their hard skins scrubbed and their foreheads oiled. The mahouts also drew patterns on the elephants' faces and ears.

Of the three finalists, the youngest won. Chanchalkali, 28, which translates as "playful beautiful," looked resplendent in a light red gown that covered her hulk of a body. Her nails were painted different colors and her forehead was covered with red cloth. She was declared the most beautiful elephant by the judges on the basis of hygiene, good health, energy and looks. Dhirendrakali, 35, was named the runner-up.

The event was held in Chitwan district, 175km south of Kathmandu. Some 35 elephants participated in the festival, organized by the government to promote tourism. There are about 95 domesticated elephants in Nepal out of a total population of 200.


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