Devastating photos have emerged showing a starving elephant so emaciated that every bone is on show after a lifetime of being forced to perform in festivals.
70-year-old Tikiiri’s will be forced to work alongside 60 more elephants during the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year, where her frail body and ailing health will be hidden by fancy dress costumes.
The 10-day Buddhist festival will see the decorated animals and a host of performers including dancers, jugglers, fire-breathers and musicians.
Now, the Save Elephant Foundation has shared harrowing images of poor Tikiiri to mark World Elephant Day, which took place on Monday.
On sharing the pictures, the foundation wrote on Facebook:
Tikiiri joins in the parade early every evening until late at night every night for ten consecutive nights, amidst the noise, the fireworks, and smoke.
She walks many kilometres every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony.
Although Tikiiri looks fine to festival-goers, her glamorous full-body robes hide a horrifying reality beneath.
The foundation continued:
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.
How can we call this [the festival] a blessing, or something holy, if we make other lives to suffer?
According to the foundation, the poor starving elephant works for the ‘Tooth Temple in Kandy City’ and the organisation is pleading with people to ‘write to Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to end this cruelty.’
The foundation concluded:
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.
The post, which has now been shared hundreds of times, was inundated with comments from people horrified by the plight of these poor elephants.
One person wrote:
This is beyond awful – I have tears in my eyes. This beautiful lady needs to a sanctuary to live out her remaining days. This breaks my heart.
A spokesperson for the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple that hosts the festival, told Metro they ‘always care about the animals’, insisting Tikiiri has been seen by an elephant doctor.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.