Sri Lanka probes elephant cruelty at Buddhist parade

Sri Lanka Friday ordered an investigation following the collapse of a skeletal 70-year-old elephant after being forced to parade at a high-profile Buddhist pageant popular with local and foreign tourists.

Tourism and wildlife minister John Amaratunga said he ordered wildlife authorities to investigate how the elephant, known as Tikiri, was forced to take part in a lengthy parade despite her failing health.

Animal-lovers slammed the authorities for deploying the aged animal at the annual Esala pageant wearing elaborate clothing at a night festival watched by tens of thousands in the central city of Kandy earlier in the week.

After a howl of protests over social media, festival organisers withdrew the aged animal from the grand finale on Wednesday.

“I have been informed that the elephant collapsed yesterday,” the minister said in a statement.

“Considering what has transpired, I have ordered officials to initiate an inquiry and ascertain how and why an elephant in such poor health was used in the (pageant) and to take necessary action against those responsible.”

The minister said he had also instructed wildlife authorities to ensure there was no repetition of such cruel treatment to some 200 elephants in captivity and routinely paraded at Buddhist temple festivals.


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