Sri Lankan elephant Tikiri forced to perform in parades dies

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image copyrightSave Elephant Foundation
image captionPhotos of Tikiri looked emaciated emerged earlier this year

A 70-year-old elephant in Sri Lanka, whose emaciated state sparked a backlash earlier this year, has died, an animal rights charity said.

Tikiri was among 60 elephants who were forced to march at the Perahera festival in Kandy every year.

In August, the Save Elephant Foundation (SEF) posted photos of her, highlighting her mistreatment.

Sri Lanka's tourism minister later confirmed to the BBC that she would be pulled from performing.

She was eventually returned to her keeper, according to media reports.

But Lek Chailert, founder of SEF, posted late on Tuesday that Tikiri had passed away.

"Tikiri's suffering has ended, her soul is now free. No more harm can come to her," said Ms Chailert in an Instagram post.

"RIP dear Tikiri. Never look back to this world so cruel toward you and your friends."

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The sad news is just out tonight that Tikiri passed away this evening. There is both sorrow and relief here. To think of her brings such pain to my heart. That hard service was her life, and not freedom, carries for me a commitment to others who yet suffer. That we could not help her before her eyes would shut forever fosters a renewed courage, and bears a responsibility for us to find safe refuges for all of the captive Giants born under the yoke of Man. What we wished for Tikiri, even a few days of freedom with love and care, we will demand for others. The day that I met Tikiri, her eyes locked with mine, telling me all that I needed to know. Her own fear and anger and sorrow is now part of that longer memory of her kind which should bear us no affection. Tikiri's suffering has ended, her soul is now free. No more harm can come to her. RIP dear Tikiri. Never look back to this world so cruel toward you and your friends. หลังจากที่ล้มครั้งแล้วครั้งเล่า มาตอนเย็นนี้ทิคคิรีก็ได้จากโลกนี้ไปอย่างทุกข์ทรมาน เธอไม่มีโอกาสที่จะได้เห็นอิสรภาพก่อนเธอตาย เธอไม่เคยได้สัมผัสความรักจากมนุษย์ก่อนที่ดวงตาคู่นั้นของเธอจะปิดสนิท วันที่ดิฉันได้พบกับทิคคิรีที่ศรีลังกา และตัดสินใจนำเรื่องของเธอสู่สายตาชาวโลก ดวงตาคู่นั้นของเธอมันบอกทุกอย่างในความรู้สึกที่เธอมี ดิฉันรู้สึกสัมผัสถึงความกลัว โกรธ ความเจ็บปวด และความหมดหวังของเธอ หลับให้สบายนะทิคคิรีวันนี้เป็นอิสระแล้ว ไม่ต้องเป็นทาสใครอีกต่อไป มองไปข้างหน้าอย่าหันหลังกลับมามอง โลกนี้ที่มีแต่การทารุนกรรม เกิดมาอีกทีอย่าเกิดมาเป็นช้างให้คนทารุนกรรมอีก #saveelephantfoundation #bekindtoanimals #bekindtoelephants #elephant

A post shared by Lek Chailert (@lek_chailert) on

The SEF had in August posted pictures of Tikiri, showing her performing at the Perahera festival with her frail body covered by a colourful costume.

However, a spokesman from the Buddhist temple that organises the festival had told news site Metro that Tikiri suffered from a "digestive ailment" that prevented her from putting on weight.

The Sacred Tooth Relic spokesman said this ailment had not "affected her strength and abilities".

image copyrightSave Elephant Foundation
image captionThe colourful costume hid the frail condition of her body

The pictures triggered a backlash and Tikiri was given medical attention, but according to the SEF, her condition largely "remained the same".

"Tikiri was taken away and remains isolated," the foundation had posted earlier in September. "Sadly her future remains somewhat bleak."

media captionSri Lanka elephant runs amok in religious procession

Animal rights group PETA had earlier told the BBC that many elephants in Sri Lanka were suffering "similar or worse treatment in service to an exploitative and abusive tourism industry".

The animal rights group called for stronger enforcement of animal-protection laws and for tourists to avoid places that offered elephant rides or performances.

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