As previously reported, during a hearing for a High Court of Bombay petition filed by PETA asking that the Maharashtra Forest Department implement its own order – as well as the recommendation from Project Elephant under the Ministry of Environment and Forests – and retire 14-year-old elephant Sunder to a sanctuary, High Court HH Justice Kanade and HH Justice Sonak ordered Maharashtra’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Sarjan Bhagat, to adhere to the ministerial order. Bhagat had been asked to submit a compliance report to the court by 23 December, but during the High Court hearing on the 23rd, it became clear that he had had failed to adhere to this order and the deadline.
Sunder spent six years chained at the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur, and in spite of the ministerial order calling for his release to a sanctuary, he was locked in an old, dark poultry shed and chained at the behest of Vinay Kore, a local member of the Legislative Assembly who had given the elephant as a “gift” to the temple. An undercover investigation recently conducted by PETA resulted in shocking footage of a mahout (handler) violently beating Sunder.
On hearing various arguments on 23 December, the court adjourned the matter to 21 January 2014.
“The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests’ failure thus far in implementing the court’s order means Sunder is still in chains, virtually unable to move a step in any direction, with the same mahout who was caught violently beating him in the video that shocked the world”, explains Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs for PETA India. “For the sake of his physical and mental well-being, Sunder needs to be unchained – to be able to roam, swim in ponds and do what is natural to elephants while being cared for by people who truly have his welfare at heart.”
The #FreeSunder campaign, which has been supported by Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson and numerous other stars, will continue until Sunder is moved to a sanctuary and gets the freedom he so desperately needs and deserves. You can help by taking action here.