To mark World Elephant Day, Save Elephant Foundation shared startling images which highlight the devastating effects of elephants used in festivals.
The photos show Tikiri, a 70-year-old female elephant who is set to walk in the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year.
“No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition, because of her costume. No one sees the tears in her eyes,” the post said.
The photos shared show an emaciated elephant, who come festival time, will be adorned in a decorated mask and ceremonial costume.
The foundation explains Tikiri will be one of 60 elephants that take part in the parade. Every night for ten consecutive days, the elephants will walk “many kilometres”.
“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 said.
The parade also reportedly includes fireworks and smoke, according to the post and of course, a considerable amount of noise.
The Esala Perahera is one of the “oldest and grandest” festivals in Sri Lanka.
“This is held in Esala (July or August) which is the month that is believed to commemorate the first teaching given by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment,” a tourist site promoting the festival says.
“For a ceremony, all have the right to belief as long as that belief does not disturb or harm another,” the Save Elephants Foundation post says. “How can we call this a blessing, or something holy, if we make other lives suffer?”
Since the disturbing photos of Tikiri were shared on social media, a petition was set up, calling for Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to help Tikiri.
“As you can see in the photo, she has been severely neglected and is in urgent need of medical help,” the petition says.
“She is being forced to participate in Sri Lanka's gruelling religious festivals known as Peraheras.
“We are asking that she receive immediate care and medical attention and that she no longer be used in the Peraheras.”
At the time of writing, the petition has been signed over 10,000 times.
“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,” the Save Elephant Foundation post concludes.
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