The Save Elephant Foundation posted images of the pachyderm to raise awareness about the 70-year-old female’s plight.
“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,” Lek Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation, wrote on Facebook on Aug. 13.
“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,” the post read.
In the comments section, people expressed horror over the animal’s condition.
“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,” the post continued.
Elisa Allen, director of animal welfare charity PETA, told CNN that elephants are regularly exploited in the country.
“Sri Lankan authorities must stop allowing such atrocious cruelty and send this poor elephant to a reputable sanctuary where she can be assessed by veterinarians and, if treatment is viable, live out her remaining years in peace,” Allen said in a statement to CNN on Aug. 15. “Tourists visiting Sri Lanka can help elephants by refusing to ride them and by avoiding any attraction that offers or endorses elephant rides, keeps the animals chained, or forces them to perform,” she added.
After public outcry over the photos, the elephant was pulled from the festival, reported the AFP news agency.
Pradeep Nilanga Dela, chief custodian of the Temple of the Tooth, made the confirmation to the news outlet.
“Tikiri is being treated,” Dela told AFP. He said the elephant has a “medical condition” that the owner plans to address, without elaborating.
But Jayantha Jayewardene, the operator of Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust in Sri Lanka, told AFP that he is concerned about the pachyderm’s health.
“Obviously, the animal is severely undernourished. It is close to death,” he told AFP after seeing the photos. “This should never have been allowed.”
An online petition has been circulated about Tikiri, which has garnered 12,000 signatures.
“We ask you the prime minister of Sri Lanka to end this barbaric torture and abuse,” the petition says.
Ban Lifted in Botswana
The move is apt to anger conservationists, who have in the past reacted with outrage at any move that weakened the protection of elephants in Botswana, which has the world’s largest population of the animals, estimated at some 130,000.
Conservation groups last September denounced moves by Botswana’s government to strip the wildlife department of weapons used for the sometimes dangerous work of thwarting armed poachers.
At the time, President Mokgweetsi Masisi called the reactions “nothing but hysteria.”
Epoch Times reporter Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.