Heartbreaking photographs have emerged of an elephant which is so emaciated every rib is showing after a lifetime of being forced to parade in a festival costume.
Tikiiri, a 70-year-old female elephant, will work beside 60 elephants for the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year – despite her frail body and ailing health.
The ten-day Buddhist festival features the decorated animals along with a myriad of performers including dancers, jugglers, fire-breathers and musicians.
The harrowing pictures of Tikiiri were shared by Save Elephant Foundation to mark World Elephant Day on Monday.
Tikiiri, a 70-year-old female elephant, will work beside 60 elephants for the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year – despite her frail body and ailing health
‘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,’ the foundation said.
‘She walks many kilometres every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony.’
While Tikiiri looks glamorous to festival-goers with her sparkly full-body dress, the costume covers the grueling reality.
‘No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition, because of her costume,’ the foundation wrote.
‘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?’
The organisation said Tikiiri works for the ‘Tooth temple in Kandy city’ and urged viewers to ‘write to Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to end of this cruelty’.
‘We cannot bring a peaceful world to the elephant if we still think that this image is acceptable,’ they added.
While Tikiiri looks glamorous to festival-goers with her sparkly full-body dress, the costume covers the grueling reality
‘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.’
Those who viewed the pictures said they were left ‘heartbroken’ by Tikiiri’s mistreatment.
‘To have this beautiful creature treated and used in such a despicable way shows that humans really do think they are the superior race… This has got to stop and I for one will write to the Sri Lankan government,’ one person wrote on the picture.
‘I hate what we continue to do to these beautiful majestic creatures,’ added another.
‘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,’ one person wrote.
Non-profit organisation Save Elephant Foundation focuses on providing care for Thailand’s captive elephant population.
The heartbreaking pictures of Tikiiri were shared by Save Elephant Foundation to mark World Elephant Day on Monda
It was founded by Sangdeaun Lek Chailert, who began advocating for elephant welfare in Asia due to her love for the country’s national symbol and worries about the species becoming endangered.
‘It is our mission to save the Asian elephant from extinction and give domesticated elephants a life worth living by preserving habitat and increasing public awareness on humane treatment practices,’ Save Elephant Foundation said.
The foundation runs Elephant Nature Park – a sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand – among a number of other projects.
World Animal Protection estimates 3,000 elephants are being used for entertainment throughout Asia, with 77 per cent being treated inhumanely.
More than 800,00 Australians visit Thailand each year, with many drawn to tourist attractions where they can ride elephants, watch them perform tricks and feed them.
A spokesperson for the Sacred Tooth Relic told Metro they ‘always care about the animals’ during their festivals.