"She walks many kilometers 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."
Man has managed to tame creatures that are far bigger than us, heavier than us, and mightier than us in the name of tradition. But there's no denying that man has also turned a blind eye to the abuse these animals endure in captivity. However, what's worse is when the pathetic condition of these creatures that are "worshipped" is hidden, again, in the name of tradition.
One such animal is a 70-year-old elephant living in captivity, in the backyard of a temple in Sri Lanka. The gentle giant is put in shackles every single night and paraded around at a festival in Sri Lanka.
She's one among 60 elephants that have no choice but to walk through fireworks, smoke, and a milling crowd at Esala Perahera, a Buddhist festival in Kandy, Sri Lanka, according to Metro. What nobody sees underneath Tikiri's flashy costume is her emaciated body and her tears.
The founder of Save Elephant Foundation, Lek Chailert, wrote on Instagram, "This is Tikiiri, a 70 year old ailing female. She is one of the 60 elephants who must work in the service of the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year. 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."
Much like Tikiri, other elephants too are forced to walk for miles at a stretch with no means to protest. "She walks many kilometers 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," Lek Chailert continued to say.
It's only fair that one's freedom of practising their belief ends where the freedom of another creature begins. Turning a blind eye to an animal weakened all the way down to its bones in the name of tradition is the kind of thing we need to stop ignoring. But that is exactly what's happening to the once majestic Tikiri.
Tikiri has reached a point where every bone in her body and her spine is poking through her skin, according to The Sun.
People who visit the festival go back feeling blessed, leaving behind the helpless elephants who have to endure the bright lights and shackles. Lek Chailert added, "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 animal rights activist further pointed out how traditional ceremonies should be more understanding and not ignore the animal abuse for the sake of " a blessing". Lek Chailert went on to say, "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 Save Elephant Foundation has rescued hundreds of elephants from places like Thailand and other countries where gentle giants like these are forced to live in horrible conditions for the sake of religion and tourism. Their sanctuary has become a home to many of these elephants, once battered and been cruel to.
On World Elephant Day, they hoped to spread awareness and wrote on Facebook saying, "We need your continued support and your voice to stop the abuse and slavery of these majestic giants... Let's use World Elephant Day to be the voice for the voiceless."
A spokesperson for the Buddhist temple where Tikiri has been making regular appearances said that they "always care about the animals" and even mentioned that an elephant doctor had checked Tikiri already. However, many have still questioned how one can turn blind to her weak body and throw a festive outfit on her only to parade her in front of thousands of devotees, many of whom who might have protested had they seen her bony skeletal frame.