The Bombay high court passed a landmark judgment in favour of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and ordered the immediate transfer of the elephant Sunder, to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation centre (WRRC) in Bangalore.
The court allowed the writ petition filed by PETA and dismissed the appeal filed by the Member of Legislative Assembly Vinay Kore, who had given Sunder as a “gift” to the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur. The court also refused to stay its order, even though the senior counsel representing Kore requested as much.
The Jyotiba temple came into possession of Sunder in 2007, but after it became apparent that Sunder was being physically abused, Maharashtra Minister of Forests, Dr. Patangrao Kadam, and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, issued orders for Sunder’s release to a sanctuary on August 21st 2012 and November 9th 2012, respectively.
Unfortunately, those orders were never carried out, and Kore hid Sunder in an old poultry shed, where he remained in chains. In December 2013, PETA obtained video footage that proved that the elephant was also being violently beaten. According to PETA India, “veterinarians and elephant experts who examined Sunder found him scarred, wounded and chained so tightly that he couldn’t lie down.”
“Sunder has known physical abuse, chains, loneliness and misery for almost a decade,” said Dr. Manilal Valliyate, PETA India’s director of veterinary affairs. PETA India is now calling on Maharashtra Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Sarjan Bhagat, to implement the court’s order quickly before Sunder can be harmed again.
The campaign for his release spanned twenty-one months, as people in India and around the world worked to save him from his abusers. Celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Pamela Anderson, Arjun Rampal, R Madhavan, Gulshan Grover and many others took to Twitter, or helped in other ways with the campaign for his release.
PETA will keep working until Sunder is safe and happy in his new home. “We are grateful for the high court ruling calling for his release to a sanctuary. PETA is looking forward to seeing Sunder receive the care and respect that he deserves,” said Dr. Valliyate.
Photo Credit: PETA India