70-year-old malnourished elephant Tikiri dies after being forced to parade through the streets during festival
Animal rights groups across the globe were outraged after it was found that Tikiri's malnourished and emaciated body was hidden beneath a colorful costume
A 70-year-old elephant in Sri Lanka has died after she was forced to parade through the streets during a religious festival.
Animal rights groups across the globe were outraged after it was found that Tikiri's malnourished and emaciated body was hidden beneath a colorful costume, according to a Metro report.
Photos from the annual Esala Perahera, a Buddhist festival held in Kandy, Sri Lanka, showed the embattled elephant collapsed on the ground and struggling to breathe.
Tikiri was one among 60 elephants that were forced to march for days in order to make tourists and locals feel "blessed" during the festival.
She was returned to her keeper in the Rambukkana village near Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage following an outcry by animal activists.
Unfortunately, Tikiri's prolonged ordeal had already taken a toll on her health. "Yes, she died this afternoon," Tikiri's keeper told Metro UK. "A vet from the hospital is coming tomorrow to investigate and do a post-mortem."
According to an unnamed source, the "poor girl spent her life as a slave". "We have been fighting for her and there was hope, but now this," the source said and added, "It’s just terrible."
Lek Chailert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation in Thailand, shared photos of Tikiri earlier this month after she was sent back to her owner.
At the time, she asked why Tikiri's legs were chained together. "She is sick. She is old. She is weak. Why is she still tied both legs front and back?" she wrote.
"Surely she deserves better. Is it fear of her from a lifetime of abuse? Is there no emotional reciprocity, having spent a lifetime with her?" Chailert had asked.
"The bond between mahout [keeper] and the elephant is vigorously defended," she continued. "The bond is clear. I see the bonds. If you love animals, truly, open your eyes, your mind, your heart, to their suffering."
Tikiri allegedly suffered from a "digestive ailment" which did not allow her to put on weight, according to a spokesperson for the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple that organizes the festival.
A temple spokesperson said in a statement the elephant's owner had "specifically requested" her to be a part of the festival owing to an "ancient belief" that such an offering would cure her weakness.
"It is an ancient belief that the performing of pooja (offerings) to gods by sick or weak elephants has healing powers," the spokesperson said.
"Hence, given the digestive ailment of Tikiri, her owner specially requested the Diyawadana Nilame of the Vishnu Devala [chief of the temple] to allow Tikiri to take part in this year's procession in the hope of curing her."
"Taking into account the great service performed by Tikiri to the Esala procession, the request was accepted in terms that she is proved to be fit to take the streets after a thorough examination," the statement continued. "Given that Tikiri was proved to be fit, she was allowed to take part in a few processions."