Remembering Tikiri

24 September 2020

Tikiri was a female elephant, she died in an emaciated state on 24 September 2019 aged 70 in Sri lanka. During her lifetime, she was used for tourists trekking and for religious festivals.

Prior to her death, pictures of her emaciated body raised global awareness of the poor conditions in which many captive elephants endure in Asia. Her body was obviously broken due to many years of neglect but the lifeless look in her eyes told us that she had given up on life mentally way before her body followed.

Tikiri’s plight has highlighted how our use of these gentle giants can cause them so much pain and suffering. For many of the elephants working in tourism camps or on logging plantations, they will have started their lives in the wild with their family herds, only to be taken away and forced into life of service. Others may have had the misfortune to have been born into this life, without experiencing the true nature of being wild.

But there is hope in the form of elephant owners and their mahouts that truly want to give their elephants the chance to experience the lives of their wild cousins. Tourism opportunities are developing across Asia which are allowing elephants to be true elephants once again, places that allow elephants to be in the company of each other and do not force them to do tricks or provide us with rides and ‘close contact experiences’. Places that support elephant mahouts to make a living out of truly caring for their elephants and providing them with the choice they so deserve.

On this Tikiri remembrance day, spare a thought for all of the Tikiris still being forced to provide rides or march in festivals and use her name, her appalling treatment and death to appeal to others to help end their suffering.

Given a choice Tikiri would have stayed with her mum and her family and not lived a life of service to our entertainment needs. It is time that we gave all elephants the choice they deserve.