High Court Judge Orders Maharashtra PCCF To Implement State Ministerial Order To Release Abused Elephant Sunder

For Immediate Release:
10 December 2013

Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

Amitabh Bachchan, Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Madhuri Dixit and a Host of Other Stars Back PETA’s Campaign to Free Sunder

Mumbai – Today, during a hearing for a High Court of Bombay petition filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (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 MP Kanade and HH Justice MS Sonak ordered the Maharashtra state Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) (Wildlife), Sarjan Bhagat, to adhere to the ministerial order. Bhagat has been asked to submit a compliance report to the court by 23 December. Sunder spent six years chained at the Jyotiba Temple in Kolhapur, and despite 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. Sunder’s body shows signs of severe abuse.

The court’s decision follows the release last week by PETA of a shocking undercover investigative video that shows a mahout (handler) violently beating Sunder. Celebrities recently took to Twitter in a #FreeSunder campaign. Those who participated include Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, R Madhavan, Raveena Tandon, Arjun Rampal, Sunny Leone, Amrita Rao, Kartik Murali, Vishal Dadlani, Ayushmann Khurrana, Dino Morea, Jacqueline Fernandez, Celina Jaitly and Yaami Gautam. More than 33,000 people have signed PETA India’s online petition calling for Sunder’s release, and Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson have both sent letters to authorities on his behalf.

PETA’s video reveals a malnourished-looking 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 after he has stood.

“Sunder has known only chains, loneliness, darkness and beatings for at least half of his life”, says Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA’s director of veterinary affairs. “We are grateful that the High Court has ordered the PCCF to adhere to the ministerial order calling for Sunder’s release to a sanctuary. We look forward to the day when Sunder is unchained, in the company of other elephants, able to bathe in ponds and able to get the care and freedom that he so desperately needs and deserves.”

PETA has identified a sanctuary where he could be cared for, live without chains, be able to roam and be among other elephants.

For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com.