70-Year-Old Elephant Starved and Forced to Work Non-Stop in Sri Lanka
An activist in Thailand is calling for change for an ailing 70-year-old elephant which is allegedly forced to work consecutive nights at a festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka despite her alarming condition.
The female elephant named Tikiri is so frail that her handlers cover her ribs in a colorful costume before she is made to walk miles every night at a religious festival, according to Save Elephant Foundation founder Lek Chailert.
“No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition, because of her costume,” noted Chailert on an Instagram post on Monday, coinciding with World Elephant Day.
Chailert has claimed that Tikiri is among the 60 elephants forced to work for 10 consecutive nights at the Buddhist festival Esala Perahera, which features the decorated animals parading nightly so people can feel “blessed.”
The festival, which includes performers such as dancers, jugglers, fire-breathers and musicians, is celebrated in loud noises that may be irritating and distracting for the animals.
“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,” Chailert wrote. “She walks many kilometers every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony.”
Chailert revealed that the elephants are “short shackled” to force them to walk slowly through the noisy chaos of the night parade.
“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. For a ceremony, all have the right to believe as long as that belief does not disturb or harm another.”
“How can we call this a blessing, or something holy, if we make other lives to suffer? ‘Today is World Elephant Day. We cannot bring a peaceful world to the elephant if we still think that this image is acceptable. ‘To love, to do no harm, to follow a path of kindness and compassion, this is the Way of Buddha. It is time to follow.”
In her campaign, Chailert has been urging people to “write to Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to end of this cruelty.”
Responding to the allegations made by Save Elephant Foundation, Buddhist temple The Sacred Tooth Relic, which hosts the festival, claimed that they “always care about the animals.” A representative told Metro that Tikiri had been seen by an elephant doctor.
The elephants’ chief custodian Pradeep Nilanga Dela also claimed that Tikiri would no longer be part of the closing parade so she can get treatment, CNN reports.
On Thursday, Chailert posted a more recent photo of Tikiri in which she appears to be in pain while lying on the ground.