A TERRIFIED elephant taking part in a festival in Sri Lanka has run berserk, throwing its driver off and trampling on him.
The animals are often used in religious parades in the island nation and concerns have been raised that they are tortured by their owners, including being beaten with sticks.
Video taken at a Buddhist pageant in Kotte, near Columbo, shows people fleeing from another elephant, which is out of picture.
They in turn run into an elephant that can be seen in footage, panicking the terrified animal, which is walking behind a group of drummers.
The elephant goes berserk and least one by-stander at the side of the road can be seen being trampled as a man carrying a stick tries to restrain it.
The elephant – which is dressed in an ornate blue and gold decorative costume – then charges down the road, sending terrified by-standers and those taking part in the parade fleeing.
A man riding on the elephant – known as a mahout – can be seen being thrown to the ground and is trampled as the animal runs further down the street.
The injured can be seen being carried down the road and loaded into ambulances.
Officials from two hospitals said Monday that 18 injured people received treatment and 16 had been discharged.
Starting from a 600-year-old Buddhist temple, the annual street pageant locally sees dancers and elaborately decorated elephants parade through the streets of Kotte.
Other similar parades – known locally as Perahera – take place across Sri Lanka and also feature fire-breathers.
Ornately decorated elephants are a major attraction in Sri Lankan Buddhist pageants and some Buddhist temples even own elephants.
Wealthy families own captive elephants as a symbol of their prosperity, pride and nobility and send their elephants to participate in pageants around the country.
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The Sun Online recently highlighted the plight of a 70-year-old emaciated elephant in Sri Lanka that has spent its life working in festivals.
Tikiri is shackled every night while taking part in the Perahera in the city of Kandy and is so skinny that bones protrude through her skin – including her spine.
It is said that Tikiri works at the Tooth temple in Kandyand is in constant service for temple ceremonis, in which she is draped in colourful costume, covering her emaciated frame.
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