AN emaciated elephant that lived as a “slave” for 70 years has died just weeks after photos of her skeletal body shocked the world.
Tikiri the elephant was forced to march for miles in a Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka despite her fragile and starving state.
Disturbing photos which revealed how cruel owners dressed Tikiri in a colourful costume to hide her protruding ribs sparked outrage last month.
The “tortured” animal was also photographed crumpled in a heap on the floor after collapsing when her torment became too much.
She was one of around 60 elephants that marched for days on end so tourists and locals can feel “blessed” at the annual Esala Perahera festival in Kandy.
Tikiri was shackled every night during the parade which took a tragic toll on her health.
Following an outcry by campaigners, Tikiri was returned to her keeper in Rambukkana, a village close to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
But it appears she was unable to recover from her ordeal.
Tikiri’s keeper confirmed to Metro.co.uk that Tikiri died on Tuesday afternoon.
The keeper added: “A vet from the hospital is coming tomorrow to investigate and do a post-mortem.”
A source said the “poor girl spent her life as a slave”.
Earlier this month, Lek Chailert, who founded the Save Elephant Foundation in northern Thailand, shared photos of Tikiri after she was sent back to her owner.
The activist wrote: “She is sick. She is old. She is weak. Why is she still tied both legs front and back?
“Surely she deserves better. Is it fear of her from a lifetime of abuse?”
Lek drew global attention to Tikiri’s suffering last month when the activist shared horrific photos of the starving elephant showing every rib in her body.
“This is Tikiri, a 70 year old ailing female,” Lek captioned a shocking photo of the elephant’s emaciated body.
“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 kilometres every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony.
“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.
“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 [sic]?”
A spokesperson for the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple that organises the festival, claimed Tikiri had suffered from a “digestive ailment” which allegedly prevented her from putting on weight.
But activists said she was not given appropriate food for an elephant of her age.
Hundreds have taken to social media to vent their fury about the elephant’s years of suffering and abuse.
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Taking to Facebook, Elaine Kennedy wrote: “Tikiri lived a life we will not tolerate for others. In her honor, we will fight for truth and justice for elephants everywhere. RIP, sweet girl.”
Klaaske Compas wrote: “So very sorry she had to endure so much suffering.
“Yes, there is relief that her suffering is over, but I am filled with anger towards the ignorant and uneducated owners who treat ‘their’ animals with so little respect.”
Iris Kock added: “So sad Tikiri did not experience love and care and freedom at the end of her life. I hope she has found peace now.”
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