After years of being chained and violently beaten, the fourteen-year-old elephant Sunder is finally safe in his new home at the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bangalore, India.
For six years, Sunder was chained and abused at the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur, India. In 2012, the Maharashtra Forest Department and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued orders to retire Sunder to a sanctuary. Sadly for Sunder, the orders were never carried out, and instead Maharashtra Member of the Legislative Assembly Vinay Kore, who had given the elephant as a “gift” to the temple, sent him to live in an old, dark poultry shed where until recently he has been chained and subjected to numerous beatings.
An undercover investigation conducted by the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals India (PETA India) had resulted in footage of a mahout (handler) violently beating Sunder with a thick wooden pole. The video revealed a malnourished-looking Sunder, chained by two legs, writhing in pain and struggling to stand as the mahout strikes him repeatedly with the pole.
As a result if the investigation, “the Supreme Court of India passed a judgment in favour of PETA India by ordering the implementation of a 7 April 2014 Bombay High Court order to release the well-known and much-abused young elephant Sunder to an elephant care centre in Bangalore by no later than 15 June,” stated PETA India. “The Supreme Court also ordered that the Secretary, Revenue and Forests Department, Maharashtra State will be responsible for the implementation of its order and must strictly meet the deadline.”
This decision was supported by celebrities Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Celina Jaitly, Gulshan Grover and many others who took to Twitter, met with concerned government officials, and helped in other ways with the campaign for his release.
A few days ago, Sunder was freed and began the journey to his new home. “We are overjoyed to report that the much abused young elephant Sunder was placed on a truck by a team of experts who had travelled to Kolhapur to work with the Maharashtra Forest Department and is now being driven carefully and slowly to his new home as per the order of the Supreme Court of India,” said Peta India.
Despite the court’s decision, and the fact that Sunder was now free to be relocated, the cruel and vicious people who abused Sunder all those years did not let him begin his journey in peace. Even to the last moment, they tried to find ways to hurt the terrified elephant.
“The transition was not easy. This progress was made after a great deal of struggle, including dealing with sabotage by screaming men, near rioting, tires which were punctured with nails by those who wanted to keep Sunder in Kolhapur to endure a life of abuse and a mahout (elephant handler) who shouted the wrong commands in order to agitate Sunder. Even now, a motorcycle gang is following the truck, despite police protection. The police and Maharashtra Forest Department officials as well as the experts who travelled to Kolhapur to assist with Sunder’s move are travelling with Sunder,” said PETA India.
After all the turmoil getting Sunder away from his abusers, he is now peacefully residing at a 49.5-hectare forested area care centre for elephants. As soon as he has settled down and his serious leg wound caused by long-term painfully tight chaining has healed, he will join a herd of thirteen other elephants. The sanctuary is enclosed by fencing, which allows the elephants to roam freely and wade in the ponds and streams that spread out throughout the Bannerghatta Biological Park.
Photo Credit: PETA India