The elderly skeletal elephant, whose pictures triggered widespread social media outrage after they went viral in August this year, has died, news agency AFP reported. The 70-year-old elephant named Tikiri was being forced to take part in an annual Buddhist pageant in Sri Lanka, where she was covered in a colourful costume so as to hide her malnourished body from people watching her in the parade. The elephant’s picture had led to her withdrawal from the event.
The Sri Lankan government has ordered the officials to send the elephant’s body for the postmortem examination. “The government has ordered an autopsy for Tikiri, a domesticated Asian elephant that died Tuesday night in Kegalle, 80 km (50 miles) east of the capital Colombo,” AFP quoted a wildlife department official as saying.
Elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said the animal had been ill-treated. “Tikiri was severely undernourished. It is a wonder that she lived this long,” he said. The authorities had faced outrage by animal lovers for forcing the weak animal to parade several kilometres wearing elaborate attire at the hugely popular night festival.
Lek Chailert, the founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, wrote on social media that spectators did not realise how weak Tikiri was because of her costume. The Save Elephant Foundation had shared several photographs of the animal along with a post explaining its condition.
“This is Tikiri, 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.