Reports claim that a malnourished 70-year-old elephant has collapsed from exhaustion after performing at a week-long festival in Kandy.

Photos of the emaciated Sri Lankan elephant called Tikiiri shocked travellers worldwide, after the Save the Elephant Foundation revealed colourful festival robes were being used to conceal the elephant's poor condition and malnourishment.

The aging elephant was one of 60 taking part in the Perahera Festival.

The Buddhist celebration which takes place over 10 nights involves brightly decorated elephants. However, Save the Elephant called out the festival organisers over the costume of Tikiiri, which they said was being used to disguise her weak, bone-thin body so as not to distress attendees.

Advertisement

"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," the organisation said in a statement on Wednesday.

Tikiri update. Please pray for her. It is too tiring for her to walk and work. On the day we met her the vet said she...

Posted by Save Elephant Foundation on Thursday, 15 August 2019

But after this disturbing revelation on Wednesday, just two days later the organisation published a distressing update.

"Look at this poor old girl who has fallen down and the whole world can see her," they wrote on the organisations Facebook page along with a photo of the prostrate animal, surrounded by bystanders. Save the Elephant claims this picture shows Tikiiri.

The photos published by Save the Elephant have inspired a petition that has gained almost 20,000 signatures, calling for Tikiiri to be retired from ceremonial work.

The foundation said that this sad update to Tikiiri's story was a sign that it was time to end the use of animals "in every ceremony".

It is unclear what condition Tikiiri is in or if she can recover from the fall.

"There is no excuse for this animal cruelty," said Simone Clarke of World Animal Protection Australia and New Zealand. "World Elephant Day has just passed and we're still seeing these incredible creatures being subjected to cruel training and poor living conditions.

Responding to the pictures, the animal welfare organisations said they "urge the authorities in Sri Lanka to rescue this elephant immediately."

Advertisement

World Animal Protection says that this sad story serves as a "reminder for tourists" to be critical of attractions involving animals.

Tikiri: Save the Elephant Foundation claims the animal collapsed, to exhausted to walk. Photo / Supplied
Tikiri: Save the Elephant Foundation claims the animal collapsed, to exhausted to walk. Photo / Supplied

The Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, which is at the centre of Perahera ceremonies was approached for comment by the Herald.

However, in an earlier statement made to the Metro the temple said the elephant had been seen by a veterinary doctor before its involvement in the parade, insisting they "always care about the animals".