Warning: Upsetting images

An elephant has collapsed and died after doing back-to-back rides for tourists in Sri Lanka (Picture: Moving Animals, Ape Rata)

A teenage elephant has died from exhaustion after giving back-to-back tourist rides in the relentless Sri Lankan heat.

The elephant, named Kanakota, collapsed after constantly walking with his legs shackled while carrying a heavy, painful seat on his back.

He would have been under the constant threat of a sharp bullhook – a spear-like weapon that handlers use to control the wild animals.

Campaigners have said the ‘entirely preventable’ death of the 18-year-old should be a wake-up call to people not to ride elephants.

The elephant collapsed and died after his fifth trip (Picture: Ape Rata)

Kanakota, a male, had spent the last four years giving rides along the busy paved streets of Sigirya, walking alongside rushing traffic.

For around $30 each, tourists are taken to the ancient rock fortress in a journey that lasts up to an hour.

Locals who witnessed his last few tragic hours said Kanakota did three trips in one day after an exhausting parade the previous evening.

On the fourth, which took place on October 16, he refused to move.

The tourists were escorted out of the seat, then Kanakota laid down and sadly never woke up.

An investigation has been launched and while there is no official cause of death, campaigners have said the elephant died from exhaustion.

In the wild, Asian elephants live to an average age of 60.

Kanakota worked with around two others on the streets of Sigiriya (Picture: Moving Animals)
Elephants around Sigiriya are often chained as they walk along the busy streets (Picture: Moving Animals)

The death comes as heartbreaking footage has emerged of elephants carrying tourists up and down the streets of Sigirya – Kanakota’s regular route.

Their legs are chained and animal welfare campaigners say the soles of their feet are often worn down by walking on the rough roads.

Families or couples will sit on their backs in a seat that causes spinal damage to the elephant, experts have said.

Paul Healey, from the animal welfare organisation Moving Animals, captured the scenes in Sri Lanka.

Kanakota’s body is covered up with tarpaulin
Kanakota was one of a handful of elephants walking up and down this busy street carrying tourists (Picture: Moving Animals)

He said: ‘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.

‘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.

‘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.’

The animals have their feet shackled (Picture: Moving Animals)
A man and a child riding on the back of elephant with rock of Sigiriya as a backdrop (Picture: Getty)

Animal welfare laws in Sri Lanka have not been updated since 1907, when the country was under British colonial rule.

It is growing as a popular tourist destination and campaigners say the current laws are inadequate.

They have called on Sri Lanka to enact the Animal Welfare Bill, which received Cabinet approval over three years ago.

Currently anyone found guilty of animal cruelty usually gets a fine of just 100 rupees (about 50p)

The bill would replace the 112-year-old legislation, increase the penalties and introduce a rule that owners have a duty of care to their animals.





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