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Abused elephant Sundar on road to rescue centre

An elephant called Sunder

Abused elephant Sunder on road to rescue centre

Sunder, a young elephant, has had the misfortune of being physically abused. He was kept in chains and had to endure loneliness and misery for almost a decade. The elephant had been presented to the Jyotibai temple in Kolhapur by local politician and MLA Vinay Kore, as a gift. The mahout appointed to look after him used the most cruel ways of controlling him. People visiting the temple reported how badly he was being looked after.

PETA sent an investigation team to Kolhapur in June 2012 and found that the elephant had been chained for nearly six years. His mahout used a spiked chain to control him and the elephant was denied adequate food, water and daily walks. He has sustained a severe injury to the right eye as a result of the mahouts use of an ankus, a heavy rod with a sharp steel hook at one end. This was also used to make a hole in his ear.

News about Sunder was widely spread and celebrities wrote to government officials in Maharashtra. Including the Maharashtra Forest Minister at the time Dr. Patangrao Shripatrao Kadam, requesting that they take action to help Sunder.

In August 2012, Sunder became violent and uncontrollable in response to the abuse that he had suffered at the hands of his mahout and temple authorities, tearing down a pillar and trying to flee. He was subdued and returned to his life in chains.

Mr. Kadam, in August 2012, and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, on 9th November 2012, issued orders for Sunder’s release from his cruel captivity, but the previous Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, and then Head of Forest Force, S.W.H. Naqvi, failed to implement this order and Sunder remained in misery in an old poultry shed in Warananagar where he was moved at the behest of local politician and MLA Vinay Kore.

An undercover investigation conducted by PETA in December 2013 resulted in shocking footage showing the Mahout violently beating Sunder. The video reveals a malnourished Sunder, chained by two legs, writhing in pain and struggling to stand as the mahout strikes him repeatedly with a pole. Sunder visibly recoils in fear from the weapon wielding mahout, who continues to threaten him with violence. This cruelty is a gross violation of Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which declares that any person who beats, kicks, over-rides or tortures animals or subjects them to unnecessary pain or suffering shall be charged with cruelty. The action also violates Section 42 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as it states that owners must have adequate facilities for the housing, maintenance and upkeep of animals.

PETA had petitioned the Bombay High Court for Sunder’s release. But the matter went to the Supreme Court which ruled that the elephant be shifted to a sanctuary.

Bombay SPCA sends observer

Temple authorities and a local MLA of Kolhapur have been mistreating Sunder for years.

Even in the last few days, the torturers were trying to obstruct Sunder’s departure. They insisted Sunder was in musth (ready for mating) but the two veterinary experts present refused to accept their opinion and said the elephant was stable. Bombay SPCA Inspector, Dhanaji Namdeo Hazare, was deputed to inspect the elephant and the progress of the transportation which will be a major task in itself. He reported that the elephant was indeed stable and that the transportation plans were going ahead.

Two experienced veterinarians who are experts in treating and managing elephants will travel with Sunder to Bangalore along with nine helpers.

There was continued opposition from the temple staff and the MLA, they even punctured Sunder’s truck tyres.

The travelers are now in Bangalore and Sunder is bathing in clean water with nobody to hit or worry him. There are 13 other elephants in the reserve and Sunder will gradually be introduced to them.

Bombay SPCA congratulates PETA on winning the battle for rescuing Sunder. In the past when there were several traveling circuses, the Bombay SPCA often worked with PETA to rescue and move animals such as tigers, lions etc. from the circus itself or from the train or truck they were in. They would be kept, treated and cared for at the hospital. Thankfully this is not required anymore.

We were glad to be able to send Inspector Hazare as an observer in Sunder’s case.

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