Photos going viral online show an emaciated 70-year-old elephant performing at a festival in Sri Lanka, BBC News reported.
The photos were shared on Facebook Tuesday by the Save Elephant Foundation, a Thailand-based advocacy group that provides assistance to Thailand’s captive elephant population through “local community outreach, rescue and rehabilitation programs, and educational ecotourism operations,” according to its website.
In the three photos, the elephant, identified as Tikiri, appears to be malnourished, with the shape her bones, including her ribcage, visible.
The foundation said it shared the photos to urge followers to write to officials in Sri Lanka to call for her release.
“She is one of the 60 elephants who must work in the service of the Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka this year,” the foundation said of Tikiri. “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 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,” the foundation 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.”
Though the Sacred Tooth Relic, the temple holding the festival, has not returned a request for comment from the BBC, a representative for the temple told the London Metro that “they always pay attention to animals and claim that Tikiri has been examined by a veterinarian.”
A spokesperson for the temple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The photos have drawn the ire of hundreds on social media and prompted an online petition calling for Tikiri to be saved from “barbaric abuse.”
A Change.org petition, addressed to the prime minister of Sri Lanka, had more than 5,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.