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Sri Lanka TikToker fined for taunting elephant

COLOMBO (AFP) – A Sri Lankan tourist guide who taunted a wild elephant and posted the video on TikTok has been fined for animal cruelty, officials said yesterday, in a case that triggered a public outcry.

Wildlife authorities identified Shashika Gimhan Dhananjaya Rajasinghe through social media posts and a court issued him a fine of LKR200,000 (USD1,000), a sum about 20 times the monthly minimum wage in Sri Lanka.

His social media accounts have since been taken down but the video showing him tormenting the elephant is still being shared on several platforms.

In the 20-second clip the man cannot be seen but a blue vehicle with flashing lights aggressively pursues the animal off-road in the north-central city of Habarana.

Walking backwards, the dazzled elephant tries to shelter behind a tree. Outraged social media users called for tough action against the tour guide.

“The fine alone is not enough to deter this type of cruelty,” Asian elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene told AFP.

“They should have locked up his vehicle and banned him from wildlife parks.”

There have been recent reports of tour guides driving very close to wild animals in national parks and using firecrackers to scare them off when they turn aggressive.

Sri Lanka tightened wildlife protection laws last year and brought in regulations to protect elephants, which are considered sacred and a national treasure.

Capturing wild elephants is a criminal offence punishable by death, but prosecutions are rare.