The aged elephant made headlines last month when photos of her malnourished body were shared by Save Elephant Foundation.
In tragic news, Tikiri, the emaciated 70-year-old elephant who made headlines last month when a photo of her being paraded at a Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka, has died. Shocking images showing Tikiri's skeletal body were shared by Save Elephant Foundation in August. The animal rights organization explained that Tikiri was one of many elephants who was decorated, dressed up, and made to parade several miles during the ten-day festival. However, her costume hid her unhealthy condition from festival-goers.
"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," the post said. "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 post and accompanying photos sparked global backlash, and Tikiri was returned to her keeper, but still was ailing and weak.
Tikiri's keeper at Rambukkana village in Sri Lanka confirmed that the elephant had passed away yesterday, telling Metro UK, "Yes, she died this afternoon." He added, "A vet from the hospital is coming tomorrow to investigate and do a post-mortem." A source told Metro UK that the "poor girl spent her life as a slave", adding, "We have been fighting for her and there was hope, but now this. ‘It’s just terrible." Earlier this month, Lek Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation, posted photos of Tikiri after she was returned to her keeper, writing, "I would like to thank all media and people around the world who helped to focus attention on her, and to bring her voice onto the stage, raising awareness about her life and condition, and that of all other captive elephants who follow after her aged steps." Chailert also questioned why the aged elephant still seemed to be tied up in a way that made her immobile.
"How is Tikiri now ? Is she truly cared for well ? She is sick. She is old. She is weak," Chailert wrote. "Why is she still tied both legs front and back? Surely she deserves better. Is it fear of her from a lifetime of abuse ? Is there no emotional reciprocity, having spent a lifetime with her ? The bond between mahout and elephant is vigorously defended. The bond is clear. I see the bonds. If you love animals, truly, open your eyes, your mind, your heart, to their suffering." Announcing the sad death of the 70-year-old elephant yesterday, Chailert wrote that the news brought "both sorrow and relief", and promised to demand freedom, love, and care for other elephants that were still being treated similarly.