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Stressed Out Elephants Trample Crowd at a Sri Lankan Festival

Buddhist night festivals are infamous for mistreating elephants, whose legs are shackled and stabbed during the parades.

by Edoardo Liotta
12 September 2019, 10:02am

Screenshot from Reuters video. 

Eighteen people were injured at a religious festival in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Saturday after two distressed elephants trampled the crowd that had gathered for a Buddhist festival.

Among the injured was a temple custodian riding one of the elephants and 13 women, CNA reported. The elephants were used in a temple festival where they broke free from their chains and ran through the crowd during the parade.

Elephants in ornate dress are a major attraction during Sri Lanka’s Buddhist parades. Wealthy families own elephants to show their prosperity and nobility, and parade them in pageants across the country, according to AP.

Some say that the elephants’ behaviour was a result of them being in musth, a period when their reproductive hormones spike, but elephant expert Jayantha Jayewarden told AFP that temple authorities should not have used the animals if that were the case.

Others believe it’s because the elephants were stressed out by the festivities. Dancers, acrobats, and musicians march alongside the elephants during these religious festivals, which can be very stressful for the animals. The Save Elephant Foundation has blasted these festivals for mistreating elephants, which takes a serious toll on their health.

After an incident in which a 70-year-old elephant in a skeletal state collapsed during one of the night festivals in August, the organisation explained the state the elephants are in during such events.

“[Everyday], after their tiring nighttime walk, they are chained and disturbed by many tourists. They have virtually no time to even get a short nap… Even the processional costumes takes (sic) so long to adorn, amid threats and intimidation, in the heat and the noise, their lives are not their own,” it said in a Facebook post.

The post goes on to explain that during the night walks, the elephants’ legs are shackled and are stabbed with spears by the men walking alongside them. To make matters worse, the smoke and lights irritate their eyes, causing them to tear throughout.

“We do hope that the Sri Lankan Government will consider strongly the protection and compassionate treatment of the elephant. Their long history of service and suffering must now be met by a due justice, and honored by respect with vigilance.”

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This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.