Sri Lanka probes elephant cruelty at Buddhist parade

Colombo: Sri Lanka Friday ordered an investigation after a skeletal 70-year-old elephant was paraded at a high-profile Buddhist pageant in a move criticised as cruelty to the ailing animal. 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 poor health. Animal-lovers slammed the authorities for forcing the aged animal to participate in the annual Esala Perehara (pageant) wearing elaborate clothing at the hugely popular night festival 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 perehara (pageant) and to take necessary action against those responsible."

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