Elephants are some of nature’s most beautiful and gentle gifts to the world. They do not deserve to be treated this way.
Tikiri is 70 years old, sick, emaciated, and is forced to walk several kilometers every night during the 10-day Perahera Festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka.  Tikiri is one of the 60 elephants who have to ‘grace’ the Buddhist event, walking slowly through the crowd (their feet are shackled) so that people can receive blessings from their presence.
Tikiri does not have a single pound of flesh left in her entire body. She is not fed, and she looks like a skeleton wearing skin under her majestic, colorful costume. Her entire bone frame has indented her rough-looking, scarred skin. She’s malnourished and ill, and yet starved and overworked. The bright lights on her mask have almost blinded her. As thin as she is, she still has to carry a guide on her extremely conspicuous spinal cord every night. The organizers feel no sympathy for her, and if this isn’t the height of animal cruelty, then I don’t know what is.
Save Elephant Foundation to the Rescue
Tikiri works in the Tooth Temple of Kandy City, and she was discovered by Save Elephant Foundation, a Southern Thailand-based organization aimed at protecting Asian elephants like Tikiri.
Lek Chailert, founder of the foundation says that Tikiri is short-shackled every night to make her walk slowly and more ‘gracefully.’ She is unable to make a run for it at any point because she is not only permanently restrained but also very ill.
On their Facebook page, the foundation wrote on World Elephants’ Day, August 12:
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. 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 foundation has rescued hundreds of these beautiful animals from horrifying conditions such as Tikiri’s. They are calling on people to practice the true love and affection that Buddha teaches. Elephants are sacred animals in the religion, and neglecting them this way does not show righteousness or respect for Buddha.
For a ceremony, all have the right to belief as long as that belief does not disturb or harm another. How can we call this a blessing, or something holy, if we make other lives to suffer? 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 foundation wrote.
A Clarion Call to Fight for Tikiri
The foundation is calling on people to join hands in writing persistently to Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. He’s being petitioned to intervene and stop the Temple from harming animals.
We need your continued support and your voice to stop the abuse and slavery of these majestic giants. Let’s use World Elephant Day to be the voice for the voiceless, the foundation wrote.
Following the surfacing of Tikiri’s graphic pictures on social media, a representative for the Tooth Temple has stepped forward in an interview with Metro UK. He claims that they ‘always care about the animals’ in their temple. He also said that Tikiri is now being tended to by an elephant doctor.
This spokesperson needs to hear that a 70-year-old elephant has no business walking for 10 days at a stretch, and she wouldn’t look like a skeleton if she was fed at least twice a day. I do hope she’s truly being looked after now.
One comment on Facebook mirrored my thoughts exactly:
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.
Animals have feelings too. They deserve love, compassion, and tenderness. Let’s join in this fight and wipe the tears from the eyes of Tikiri and every other elephant being abused out there.
- Joe Roberts. “Starving elderly elephant’s emaciated body is hidden by festival costume.” Metro UK. Metro. Retrieved 15-08-19
- Admin. “Kandy Esala Perahera 2019.” Lanka. Lanka. Retrieved 15-08-19
- Save Elephant Foundation. Official website. Save Elephant .
- Save Elephant Foundation. Facebook. Facebook. Retrieved 15-08-19