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Elephant kills monk during Buddhist procession in Sri Lanka

An elephant that was part of a Buddhist procession has attacked and killed a monk, police in Sri Lanka said.

Police spokesman Priyantha Jayakody said three elephants were walking in the procession on Sunday night when one suddenly went on a rampage and attacked the monk.

The 25-year-old victim was seriously injured and died in hospital early on Monday.

Colourfully decorated elephants are an important part of Buddhist religious processions and festivals. Temples and wealthy families often own the animals and rent them out for such events.

However, animal rights activists say the elephants are often kept in inhumane conditions and receive insufficient food.

Authorities say there are about 127 tame elephants that are used for processions and other religious ceremonies by Sinhalese Buddhists, who make up 70% of the island's 20 million people.

Having an elephant in the backyard has long been a sign of wealth, privilege and power. For hundreds of years, elephants have been used for such religious activities and as well as for battles by ancient kings.

Sri Lanka has about 6,000 elephants, but those in the wild are threatened by habitat loss and degradation. An estimated 200 elephants are killed every year, mainly by farmers trying to protect their crops. In the 19th century there were believed to be up to 14,000 elephants.

AP

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