A heart-rending photos of a 70-year-old emaciated female elephant named Tikri have recently surfaced on social media.
Shared by the official Facebook account of a charity- 'Save Elephant Foundation', the elephant can be seen covered in colourful robes as she parades for 10 consecutive nights with a man riding on her back in the annual Esala Perehara (pageant) in Sri Lanka.
The charity stated that Tikiri joins this parade amidst the noise, loud fireworks and heavy smoke. She is reportedly forced to walk several kilometres every night during the festival so that people feel blessed during the ceremony.
As she is heavily decked up with clothes and lights no one can see her bony body or her feeble 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," read an August 13 Facebook post written by Lek Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation.
"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 added.
According to 'Save Elephant Foundation' Facebook page, the Thailand-based nonprofit organization's mission is 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."
The Esala Perahera festival (also known as the Festival of the Tooth) is an annual Buddhist festival celebrated with elegant costumes, performers and decorated elephants in Kandy, located in central Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Tourism and Wildlife minister John Amaratunga have ordered an investigation as to how the elephant known as Tikiri was forced to take part in a lengthy parade despite her poor health, News agency AFP reported.
Animal-lovers slammed the authorities for forcing the aged animal to participate in the annual Esala Perehara (pageant) wearing elaborate clothing at the hugely popular night festival in the central city of Kandy earlier in the week.
After a howl of protests over social media, festival organisers withdrew the aged animal from the grand finale on Wednesday.
"I have been informed that the elephant collapsed yesterday," the minister said in a statement.
"Considering what has transpired, I have ordered officials to initiate an inquiry and ascertain how and why an elephant in such poor health was used in the perehara (pageant) and to take necessary action against those responsible," AFP quoted John Amaratunga as saying.