Owner of emaciated elephant Tikiiri hits back at mistreatment claims
The owner of Tikiiri the emaciated elephant has hit back at claims he is mistreating her.
Randenige Thilakarathna, 62, a wealthy supermarket and hotel owner from the Sri Lankan town of Kegalle, insists he has spent a fortune on veterinary care for the 70-year-old elephant.
He said his family loved Tikiiri and sent the Mirror pictures and video of her grazing on their land.
Speaking via his 29-year-old son Champika, who gained a tourism degree in Britain, Randenige said: “We do not need money from any elephant charities because we have enough money and we have been treating Tikiri very well.
“Tikiiri has had a stomach problem for five months, and has problems chewing because of her age, but we have made sure she has received Sri Lankan medicine and English medicine and she’s getting better.
“It’s been very, very upsetting to have so much criticism from around the world.
"The people who say these things do not know about treating an elephant. We have used only vets who specialise in elephants.
“The people in our village never ask us how Tikiiri is because they know she is being cared for.
"Tikiri is our only elephant and very loved by our family. We would never mistreat or harm her.”
Champika, who attended Glyndwr University in London, said his family had owned Tikiiri for eight years.
Harrowing pictures of Tikiiri’s emaciated body caused an international outcry when she walked, while short-shackled, in a lengthy parade during the ten-day Perahera Festival in Sri Lanka.
This year was the 50th consecutive year Tikiiri took part in the parade – but the family withdrew her from the finale after she collapsed from exhaustion.
Champika said: “We would not have let her parade if our vet had not said she was getting better.
"She collapsed because she is old and tired. But now she is standing up, eating well, is putting on weight and is happily back at home.
“We have people with her all the time. We would never neglect her. She is being well looked after and loved to make sure her last years are as happy and healthy as can be.”
The claims have been backed up by the Millennium Elephant Fund, the charity that first circulated the pictures of Tikiiri in the parade.
In a statement, it said animal activist Champa Fernando had visited Tikiiri on Monday.
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