The picture out of Sri Lanka is rather shocking. It shows a 70-year-old elephant, exhausted and collapsed on the ground after walking during a religious festival for miles every night.
Animal rights groups were outraged after the story of Tikiri the elephant was released. It showed her emancipated body, which was typically hidden under a colorful costume during the festival.
Approximately 60 elephants were forced to march through the streets during this annual festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka. It was a Buddhist Festival, Esala Perahera and the news got worse when additional images were released. A local activist sent this last photo of Tikiri after she was so exhausted that she collapsed yesterday.
WARNING: You May Find the Following Pictures Hard to View
You can see approximately 20 men standing around the elephant who is chained by the leg to a wall nearby.
A Sacred Tooth Relic spokesman, said the festival is organized by a Buddhist temple. Tikiri is said to suffer from a ‘digestive ailment’, which keeps her from putting on weight.
According to the spokesman, it has not affected her strength or abilities and she is not as ‘feeble and unfit’ as has been suggested by animal rights activists.
Now that the latest picture of Tikiri collapsed on the floor has been released, it seems that they may not have been completely forthcoming with the truth.
There was also footage released showing handlers from Perahera festivals beating elephants with sticks. The elephants are obviously distressed and trying to avoid the beating but they can’t escape because they are chained to a post.
Another video sent to Metro.co.uk by the same local activist showed an elephant in shackles being forced to walk down the street.
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The owners of the elephants are powerful people in Sri Lanka according to the activist. A movement is gaining steam, however, that aims to stop the animals from being used in those Buddhist festivals.
A Temple spokesman said that Tikiri’s owner had requested that she take part in the festival specifically because of an ancient belief that religious offerings are able to cure weak animals.
They said: ‘It is an ancient belief that the performing of Pooja (Offerings) to gods by sick or weak elephants has healing powers.
‘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 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.
‘Given that Tikiri was proved to be fit, she was allowed to take part in a few processions.’
Lek Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation in Northern Thailand brought to the story of Tikiri to light by sharing pictures of her emancipated body.
She wrote: ‘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.
‘She walks many kilometers every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony. 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.
‘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.’
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