Pictures of an elderly skeletal elephant triggered social media outrage after they went viral, leading to the withdrawal of the animal from the high-profile annual Buddhist pageant in Sri Lanka. The 70-year-old ailing elephant called Tikiri was covered in a colourful costume so as to hide her malnourished body from the people watching her in the parade.
Pradeep Nilanga Dela, the chief custodian of the Temple of the Tooth that organises Kandy city’s parade, confirmed that the elephant would not be a part of the grand finale of the parade because of a “medical condition” that is “being treated”, AFP reported.
The Save Elephant Foundation had shared several photographs of the animal along with a post explaining its condition.
“This is Tikiiri, a 70-year-old ailing female. 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. She walks many kilometres 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,” read the post that soon went viral.
Describing the animal’s treatment as inhumane, Asian elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene told the news agency that the “animal was severely undernourished, it is close to death”. “Owners parade their elephants to gain merit for themselves and not for the animal. This should never have been allowed,” he added saying that he was relieved that she would not be paraded.
The annual festival is celebrated at the Temple of the Tooth, which holds Buddhism’s holiest shrine on the island. The occasion is commemorated with traditional drummers, dancers and nearly 100 tamed elephants, the news agency reported.