Heartbreaking photos of a severely malnourished elephant have gone viral, prompting calls of rescue for the ailing female animal.
In honor of World Elephant Day this week, the Save Elephant Foundation shared three photos featuring Tikiiri, a 70-year-old elephant in Sri Lanka put to work during an annual festival.
According to Facebook post from the foundation, Tikiiri is one of 60 elephants forced to work for 10 days during the Perahera Festival, a traditional event that pays tribute to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha.
“She walks many kilometers every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony,” the foundation wrote in their post about the elephant. “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.”
Two photos of Tikiiri show her emaciated body, with her ribs highly visible below her skin. A third shows what the festival’s crowd sees: an animal completely cloaked in a costume that hides her body.
“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?” the foundation wrote.
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The foundation noted that Tikiiri works at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and encouraged animal advocates to reach out to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to rescue her.
The temple did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, though a temple spokesperson told Metro they “always care about the animals,” and confirmed Tikiiri had visited an elephant doctor.
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Treatment of elephants in places like Sri Lanka and Thailand, where they’re a popular tourist attraction, has come under scrutiny from groups like PETA, who recently weighed in after a viral set of photos showed injured elephants being taken for a tourist ride in Phuket, Thailand.
“Whether or not their scars are as visible as the ones in these viral images, elephants used in the tourism industry for rides and other direct-contact experiences are beaten, stabbed, and even shocked until they learn to fear their human handlers,” PETA wrote in a post on its website.
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As per Save Elephant Foundation, a Thai non-profit, help for Tikiiri can be achieved by reaching out to the prime minister in the following ways:
Prime Minister’s Office
No: 58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha,
+94 (112) 575317/18
+94 (112) 370737/38
mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax : +94 (112) 575310
Fax : +94 (112) 574143
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