Skeletal elephant dies in Sri Lanka weeks after parade outcry

A 70-year-old Sri Lankan elephant named Tikiri, whose emaciated state prompted an outcry in August after she was made to march in a Buddhist parade and collapsed, sparking an investigation by wildlife authorities, has died. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2019

Skeletal elephant dies in Sri Lanka weeks after parade outcry

  • Elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said the jumbo had been ill-treated
  • The animal was withdrawn from the finale of the annual Temple of the Tooth pageant in Kandy last month

COLOMBO: An emaciated 70-year-old elephant that caused a social media outcry after being forced to take part in an annual Buddhist pageant in Sri Lanka has died, officials said Wednesday.
The government has ordered an autopsy for Tikiri, a domesticated Asian elephant that died Tuesday night in Kegalle, 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of the capital Colombo, a wildlife department official said.
Elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said the jumbo had been ill-treated.
“Tikiri was severely undernourished,” Jayewardene told AFP. “It is a wonder that she lived this long.”
The animal was withdrawn from the finale of the annual Temple of the Tooth pageant in Kandy last month after a social media firestorm erupted against parading the feeble animal.
Animal lovers lambasted authorities for forcing the aged beast to parade several kilometers wearing elaborate attire at the hugely popular night festival.
Lek Chailert, the founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, wrote on social media that spectators did not realize how weak Tikiri was because of her costume.
After the public outcry, Wildlife Minister John Amaratunga ordered an investigation into why Tikiri was made to participate in the annual parade despite her failing health, but the outcome was not made known.
The Temple of the Tooth, Buddhism’s holiest shrine on the island, holds the annual festival with traditional drummers and dancers as well as nearly 100 elephants.
Many rich Sri Lankans keep elephants as pets, but there have been numerous complaints of ill-treatment and cruelty.
Guinness World Records says the average age of an Asian elephant is around 60 years, while the oldest on record was Lin Wang, a bull who carried supplies for the Japanese army in what was then Burma during World War II before dying in a Taiwan zoo in 2003 aged 86.


South Korean TV ‘reunites’ mother with dead daughter in virtual reality show

This undated handout photo provided on February 14, 2020 by South Korea's Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in Seoul shows a scene of a documentary "I met you" where a mother meets her dead daughter through virtual reality. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 24 sec ago

South Korean TV ‘reunites’ mother with dead daughter in virtual reality show

  • The footage began with the girl — who died of leukaemia in 2016 — emerging from behind a pile of wood in a park, as if playing hide-and-seek
  • “I have missed you Na-yeon,” she told the computer-generated six-year-old, her hands moving to stroke her hair

SEOUL: A tearful reunion between a mother and her dead daughter via advanced virtual reality for a South Korean television has become an online hit, triggering fierce debate about voyeurism and exploitation.
The footage began with the girl — who died of leukaemia in 2016 — emerging from behind a pile of wood in a park, as if playing hide-and-seek.
“Mum, where have you been?” she asks. “I’ve missed you a lot. Have you missed me?“
Tears streaming down her face, Jang Ji-sung reached out toward her, wracked with emotion.
“I have missed you Na-yeon,” she told the computer-generated six-year-old, her hands moving to stroke her hair.
But in the real world, Jang was standing in front of a studio green screen, wearing a virtual reality headset and touch-sensitive gloves, her daughter’s ashes in a locket around her neck.
At times the camera cut to Jang’s watching husband and their three surviving children, wiping away tears of their own.
A nine-minute clip of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) documentary “I met you” has been watched more than 13 million times in a week on Youtube.
Many viewers offered Jang their sympathy and support for the concept.
“My mother unexpectedly passed away two years ago and I wish I could meet her through virtual reality,” said one.
But media columnist Park Sang-hyun said the documentary amounted to exploitation of personal pain.
“It’s understandable a grief-stricken mother would wish to meet her late daughter. I would do the same,” he told AFP.
“The problem lies in that the broadcaster has taken advantage of a vulnerable mother who lost a child for sake of the viewer ratings.”
“If the mother had been counselled before the filming,” he added, “I wonder what kind of a psychiatrist would approve this.”

It took eight months of filming and programming to create the virtual Na-yeon, but the makers of the documentary insisted the broadcast was intended to “console the family” rather than promote virtual reality in ultra-wired South Korea.
The technology presented a “new way to keep loved ones in memory,” one of the producers told reporters.
Jang herself — who has her daughter’s name and date of birth tattooed on her arm in memory — hoped the program could “console” others who had lost loved ones.
“Even though it was a very brief... I was really happy in the moment,” she wrote on her blog — which she has since turned private.
During the broadcast the two sat at a table to celebrate Na-yeon’s missing birthdays, singing “happy birthday” together.
Before blowing out the candles, Na-yeon made a birthday wish: “I want my mother to stop crying.”