Starving elephant collapses during Sri Lanka festival, govt orders probe
Colombo, Aug 16: In a country where elephants are revered as quasi-sacred animals, it is tragic that the condition of the gentle behemoths is ignored.
Tikiiri, a 70 year old ailing female elephant was paraded at a high-profile Buddhist pageant in a move criticised as cruelty to the ailing animal.
She is one of the 60 elephants who must work in the service of the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year.
Tikiri joins in the parade early every evening until late at night every night for ten consecutive nights, amidst the noise, the fireworks, and smoke, according to Save Elephant Foundation, an NGO dedicated to protecting Asian Elephants.
She walks many kilometers every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony.
Tikiri is draped in elaborate floor-length robes during festivals to conceal her emaciated body. No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition, because of her costume. No one sees the tears in her eyes, injured by the bright lights that decorate her mask, no one sees her difficulty to step as her legs are short shackled while she walks.
After a howl of protests over social media, festival organisers withdrew the aged animal from the grand finale on Wednesday.
"I have been informed that the elephant collapsed yesterday," the minister said in a statement.
According to AFP, the minister said he had also instructed wildlife authorities to ensure there was no repetition of such cruel treatment to some 200 elephants in captivity and routinely paraded at Buddhist temple festivals. A probe has been ordered.
The Temple of the Tooth, Buddhism's holiest shrine on the island, holds the annual festival with traditional drummers and dancers as well as nearly 100 tame elephants.