A teenage elephant collapsed and died after being forced to give back-to-back tourist rides in Sri Lanka.
The elephant, called Kanakota, was working on a Safari in the city of Habarana, where the temperatures reach well into the 30s at this time of year and the humidity is relentless.
After days of constant travelling – having been made to do a tiring parade one night followed by three separate tourist rides the following day – Kanakota’s frail body couldn’t take it anymore and he collapsed.
Footage has since emerged showing another elephant being made to transport tourists:
On his fourth consecutive ride, Kanakota could no longer move and his trunk became limp, so the passengers were taken off his back. It’s at this point the young elephant fell to the floor, lifeless, and never woke up.
According to officials, Kanakota had been at the safari since he was three-and-a-half years old, and had been giving constant tourist rides in the years leading up to his death. He was 18 years old when he died; in the wild, Asian elephants live to an average age of 60.
A campaign by animal rights activists Moving Animals aims to put an end to elephant riding across Sri Lanka by shedding a light on the shocking conditions the animals are kept in.
The group’s investigation, filmed at the same location Kanakota tragically died, found that elephants are kept tightly chained and under the constant threat of a sharp bull-hook – a spear-like weapon used by their handlers to control them.
Like many other elephants across Asia, these elephants are forced up and down busy roads in the relentless heat, while carrying a heavy and painful seat which groups of tourists sit on.
Paul Healey, a spokesperson for Moving Animals, said:
This young elephant’s tragic and cruel death was entirely preventable. Until tourists refuse to ride elephants, more of these gentle giants will continue to suffer and collapse from exhaustion.
Sri Lankan activists and animal lovers have been campaigning tirelessly to enact this animal welfare bill that will finally change the laws and offer animals the protection they so desperately need.
We urge tourists to never ride an elephant, and call on the Sri Lankan government to instate a new Animal Welfare Bill that will finally offer protection to the country’s amazing array of animals and wildlife.
An investigation has been launched and while there is no official cause of death, campaigners have said the elephant died from exhaustion.
Rest in peace, Kanakota.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).