Elephants trample crowd at Sri Lanka parade, at least 18 injured

PHOTO: YouTube/VOA News

Elephants are often known as gentle giants but they can do some serious damage when they go rogue.

Two elephants injured at least 18 people after they ran amok at a procession in Sri Lanka on Sept 7, according to local media reports.

The incident happened during the procession of Kotte Raja Maha Vihara, an annual religious festival.

Footage of the parade shows the moment the elephants broke free from the procession and ran into the crowd, trampling on festival-goers in their path and causing chaos.

The elephants, dressed in ornate costumes and adorned with lights, appeared to be distressed.

18 people were treated at two hospitals and 16 have been discharged, officials from the hospitals told Associated Press on Sept 9.

One of the remaining casualties is being observed for possible abdominal damage while the other is being treated for an injured ear, they added.

Photo: YouTube/VOA News

Despite the disruption, the procession eventually continued as planned.

These processions, also known as peraheras, take place several times a year and feature hundreds of dancers, musicians, and acrobats marching alongside elaborately dressed elephants. 

They hold cultural and religious significance for locals and often attract tourists from far and wide.

But according to Sanguden Chailert, founder of Save Elephant Foundation, there is a dark side behind the festivities and glitzy costumes that tourists may not be aware of.

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Chailert said: "Every day, after their tiring nighttime walk, they are chained and disturbed by many tourists. They have virtually no time to even get a short nap. In the late afternoon after they are bathed, they are dressed and readied to walk again."

She also pointed out how the festivals can be stressful for elephants, and added: "They shuffle along through the smoke and dark, to the cadence of drums and chains jangling, eyes filled with the light from their adornments, ears never to be satisfied with the noise of the forest."

The overworked elephants' elaborate costumes often conceal their poor health.

Just last month, animal rights activists called on tourists to boycott Sri Lanka's animal attractions after pictures of Tikiri, an emaciated elephant forced to march in a procession, went viral.

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