Sunder en Route 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. 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.
We are hoping for the best on this journey, which will take several days. Please hope along with us, and thanks for all your calls, letters, e-mails and good wishes.
Here are a few pictures of Sunder on his way.
Supreme Court Issues Order for Sunder’s Rescue
Today, 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.
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 is supported by celebrities Paul McCartney, Amitabh Bachchan, Celina Jaitly, Madhuri Dixit, Pamela Anderson, Arjun Rampal, R Madhavan, 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. The court dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by Ministry of the Legislative Assembly Vinay Kore, who had given Sunder as a “gift” to the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur. M/s K Ashar & Co Advocates & Solicitors were the advocates on record for PETA, and the group was represented in the matter by Senior Counsel Raj Panjwani.
The Jyotiba temple came into possession of Sunder in 2007, but after cruelty such as the use of spiked chains and beatings, came to light, the Maharashtra Minister of Forests Dr Patangrao Kadam (on 21 August 2012) and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (on 9 November 2012) issued orders for Sunder’s rescue. However, they were never carried out, and Sunder was then spirited away at the behest of Kore and hidden in an old poultry shed, where he continued to be beaten and was so heavily chained that he recently sustained a serious injury on his leg.
Here are a few pictures of Sunder on his way.↓
Sunder: Now and the Next Steps
First, after getting off the truck, Sunder was given fruits. Along the road, he had become accustomed to and seemed to look forward to getting a treat at every stop!↓
Sunder has a terrible injury on his leg from being chained too tightly for a long time. It is no doubt painful to him. Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) veterinarians and handlers say that initially Sunder will need to be kept lightly restrained until the injury is brought under control and has healed and until he gets to know the other elephants and the caretakers. He needs to trust that unlike his previous “caretakers” and mahout (handler), they are not out to hurt or trick him. Since he is a large animal who has been very badly abused, precautions must be taken to ensure that he does not hurt himself or others. Right now, Sunder may find it difficult to trust anyone, but that will change.
Today, BBP granted PETA permission to create a temporary enclosure in which Sunder can move freely and at the same time allow veterinarians to treat his injury. His injury is, however, massive and is just above a joint that will be hard to heal, but the veterinarians are working on it. BBP has also given PETA permission to build a 1.25-acre sturdy enclosure that can be used for male elephants when in musth (a period of sexual urge that makes them aggressive), where they can be kept chain-free (the traditional method in India is to keep them in chains during this time). This enclosure can be used at other times, too, such as for the gentle introduction of any other rescued elephant to the park before he or she joins the herd.
Once he is thought to be psychologically and physically ready, Sunder will be transitioned to be with his new family, with whom he will be able to walk around freely.
He has already met a few of those family members and was quite excited to see them. His loneliness and desire for the company of other elephants over the years, after being taken from his mother, must have been overwhelming.
The first elephant Sunder met was Van Raj, a giant bull elephant. Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA’s director of veterinary affairs, reports, “When Van Raj went near Sunder, he was a little scared, but when Van Raj touched him, that was the moment I saw a glow in Sunder’s eyes. He also touched Van Raj and found himself to be in the comfort of his first friend at the Elephant Care Centre!”
Sunder was first unloaded from the truck in the forest and then moved to the Elephant Care Centre. Dr Valliyate reports, “When two female elephants and Van Raj came to accompany Sunder to the Elephant Care Centre, it was such a wonderful sight to see Sunder surrounded by company of his own species. Maybe for the first time, he tried to strike a chord with the ladies near him. He touched and smelled them.”
Another new family member Sunder met was this baby elephant, Shiva ↓
Shiva excitedly greeted Sunder, but since Sunder may not have ever seen a baby elephant before, he was scared. With the enthusiasm Shiva showed in making Sunder a new friend, it seems likely that the two will become playmates and best buddies in time.
Other elephants in the park bathe in the pond and wander about on their own with their mahouts watchful but at a distance. Park officials have told PETA that the entire 49.5-hectare forested area for elephants will be fenced in to allow the herd of 13 elephants – which Sunder will join – to roam freely at all times except when they need medical treatment.
PHOTOS: Sunder in His New Home
We are beyond delighted to report that the much-abused young elephant Sunder has arrived at his new home, Bannerghatta Biological Park, where he is to reside by order of the Supreme Court of India.
Park officials have assured PETA that the entire 49.5-hectare forested area for elephants will be fenced in to allow the herd of 13 elephants – which Sunder will join once he has settled down and his serious leg wound caused by long-term painfully tight chaining has healed – to roam freely. Veterinary experts are working to address this wound. We have also gained permission to fund a spacious 1.25 musth area for Sunder.
Sunder has suffered greatly for years. He has a massive injury to his leg, on a joint that will be hard to heal. He has been badly beaten and otherwise abused and so will need to be introduced gently to a different way of being handled, quarantined for health testing and loosely restrained as his injuries and health are assessed and as he comes to trust his new caretakers.
PETA continues to engage with elephant expert advisers in India and abroad in order to help with the transition. We have overcome immense hurdles – including unscrupulous behaviour, the deliberate dissemination of misinformation, attempts at religious blackmail, enormous pressure from sundry quarters, court battles and political corruption – during our efforts to rescue Sunder from the clutches of his physical abusers and mental tormentors.
We are ever so grateful to every single soul who found a way to help and who joined the #FreeSunder campaign, thereby becoming part of this joyful outcome. More than 220,000 people from around the world wrote to authorities seeking Sunder’s release through action alerts on PETA affiliates’ websites. Many celebrities – including Paul McCartney, Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Pamela Anderson, Arjun Rampal, R Madhavan, Gulshan Grover,Kapil Sharma and others – took to Twitter or helped in other ways to keep the spotlight on this long campaign for Sunder’s release.
At one point, Maharashtra Minister of ForestsDr PatangraoKadam and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued orders for Sunder’s release, but those orders were ignored. Senior Counsel Shiraz Rustomjee and Counsel Rohan Rajadhyaksha won for Sunder in the Bombay High Court. M/s K Ashar& Co Advocates & Solicitors were the advocates on record for PETA for the cases in the Bombay High Courtand Supreme Court, and Senior Counsel Raj Panjwani won the case for Sunder in the Supreme Court.
We thank Suparna Ganguly of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre for her support of the campaign and MP Maneka Gandhi, who helped us greatly by using her significant authority to end the stalling. We also thank Naresh Kadyan of OIPA for trying to bring Sunder’s abusers to justice. We are also thankful to the Maharashtra Forest Department and numerous veterinary and other elephant experts for assisting with Sunder’s move to Bangalore, and to scientist Surendra Verma and animal behaviour consultant Margaret Whittaker for guiding us in other ways.
Most of all, we would like to commend our hardworking staff and supporters who lost sleep, travelled between government offices, briefed lawyers and reporters, took undercover photographs andvideos of abuse or helped in other ways.
The elephant care centre at Bannerghatta Biological Park sits in a wonderful natural forest with ponds and streams and willserve as a safe refuge for Sunder. It also has the potential to develop into a world-class facility.
Here are some pictures of Sunder and of his new home:
Sunder is already making himself at home at his new home. ↓
Other elephants at the park who will soon be Sunder’s friends.↓
Sunder’s soon-to-be new friends going to the lake.↓
More soon-to-be friends of Sunder.↓
↑Elephant statue at the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India.
★Petition to Ban ALL Temple Elephants in India and Stop their Abuse and Torture!