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Tikiri the elephant is back home but conservationists blast maltreatment

Tikiri in Kegalle/ Upeksha Samanthi RepublicNext

Tikiri, the skeletal 70-year-old female elephant which paraded in the Kandy Esala Perahara and whose poor health condition gained local and international attention is back at home at her owner’s house in Kegalle.

She returned on Wednesday our correspondent in Kandy, Upeksha Samanthi confirmed and sent us these pictures.

Tikiri is back at home in Kegalle today Aug 16/Upeksha Samanthi RepublicNext

A public outcry arose when Thailand based ‘Save Elephant Foundation’ shared the photos of the elderly, emaciated elephant parading in the pageant.

Tikiri at the Perehera/Facebook.com

Both BBC World and CNN ran stories about the elderly pachyderm.

Animal activists from many countries asked travellers to Sri Lanka to refrain from patronising the elephant attractions.

Tikiri’s owner Randenige Tillekeratne later took steps to remove her from the pageant and treat the eating disorder from which she has long been suffering.

Our reporters say that she has issues chewing her food because of her age.

Wildlife conservationists say that the incident is a wakeup call to address the issues faced by elephants in Sri Lanka, especially the difficulties faced by elephants living in temples.

Speaking to RepublicNext, wildlife conservationist Dr Prithviraj Fernando said that the situation faced by Tikiri is very unfortunate.

“The elephant is in the last stage of her life and her condition is critical. Making the animal participate in a pageant under such conditions cannot be justified on any grounds,” Fernando said.

Commenting on taking elephants for religious pageants in Sri Lanka, retired animal right activist Padmasena Dissanayake pointed out that Buddhism does not encourage cruelty to animals.

“The tradition of keeping elephants on life imprisonment at temples has got nothing to do with Buddhism which is based on Metta. However, it has now become our tradition,” Dissanayake said.

” I live near a temple in Kotte and over the past couple of years, two elephants belonging to that temple passed away but I believe they are fortunate because they escaped suffering in the light and rain. Temples don’t have enough facilities to keep animals,” Dissanayake said.

Commenting further, Dissanayake said that keeping elephants in such a manner is illegal according to the wildlife act, yet the authorities turn a blind eye to this unfortunate situation prevalent in the society.

In response to the outcry, the Diyawadana Nilame of the Dalada Maligawa Nilanga Dela Bandara said she would be withdrawn from the Perehera. “She will be given treatment,” Bandara was quoted by AFP as saying.