A teenage elephant named Kanakota reportedly died from exhaustion recently after giving three consecutive tour rides in Sri Lanka. Now, animal welfare activists are rallying around the 18-year-old creature’s “entirely preventable” passing as a call to action for policy change.
The young, male Asian elephant had reportedly carried visitors on $30 tours for the last four years, and apparently had enough on Oct. 16. That Wednesday, Kanakota allegedly stopped in his tracks during his third tour, and refused to move. Tour leaders ushered the elephant’s passenger out of the seat on the creature’s back, as Kanakota laid down – and never woke up.
Heartbreaking images of the scene captured shocked locals gathering around the young elephant after his passing, covering him in blankets.
“This young elephant’s tragic and cruel death was entirely preventable. Until tourists refuse to ride elephants, more of these gentle giants will continue to suffer and collapse from exhaustion,” Paul Healy of animal rights group Moving Animals told Daily Mirror.
“Sri Lankan activists and animal lovers have been campaigning tirelessly to enact this animal welfare bill that will finally change the laws and offer animals the protection they so desperately need,” he said.
“We urge tourists to never ride an elephant, and call on the Sri Lankan government to instate a new Animal Welfare Bill that will finally offer protection to the country's amazing array of animals and wildlife,” Healy continued.
An investigation has since been launched in hopes of determining Kanakota’s exact cause of death, per the outlet. Kanakota is said to have been working through intense heat and carrying the tourist in a "painful" seat on his back before he died.
In recent days, animal lovers have taken to social media to mourn the news of the young elephant’s passing.
“Breaks my heart," one Twitter user said.
"These beautiful gentle creatures deserve so much better,” another agreed.
A petition called "Justice for Kanakota. The Elephant That Was Worked to Death" has received over 1,270 signatures as of Tuesday morning
According to Metro, Sri Lanka’s animal welfare laws have not been updated in over a century, and those found guilty of animal cruelty crimes are fined about 100 rupees. Activists have been urging government officials to update policies with the passage of the Animal Welfare Bill for over three years.