PETA Demands Emergency Meeting with Maharashtra Forest Minister after Baby Elephant Sunder Goes Berserk at Temple

For Immediate Release:
13 August 2012

Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Benazir Suraiya; [email protected]

PETA Appeals to Minister to Grant Young Elephant Freedom in Advance of Independence Day

Kolhapur – Just in time for Independence Day, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India is demanding an emergency meeting with Maharashtra Forest Minister Dr Patangrao Shripatrao Kadam to call for the liberation of Sunder, a 13-year-old elephant who is kept chained in a dark shed at Jyotiba Temple in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. Two days ago, Sunder became violent and uncontrollable in response to the abuse he has suffered at the hands of his mahout (or handler) and temple authorities. Sunder has a hole in his ear that was caused by the mahout’s use of an ankus – an iron rod with a hook at the end – in addition to scars all over his body and a severely injured eye.

In a letter sent to Kadam, PETA pointed out that Sunder’s violent outburst, which included pulling down a long pillar to which he was tied and ransacking the display boards of local retail shops, provides a clear indication that he has been suffering severely and is desperate to flee from his abusers. Sunder has not yet even gone into musth – a period during which male elephants can become highly aggressive as their level of reproductive hormones rises. PETA further points out that the mahout, temple devotees, authorities and people living around the temple are at risk of being harmed or killed by Sunder and that the mahout and temple management are now likely to abuse Sunder even more in their efforts to control him. PETA is urging Kadam to use his power immediately to rescue Sunder and to work with PETA to move him to a forested sanctuary.

“The conditions under which Sunder is kept are hell on Earth and unsuitable for any living being”, says PETA’s Dr Manilal Valliyate. “Daily walks and mental stimulation are essential to an elephant’s mental and physical health. When elephants are chained and beaten, they often snap and express their frustration by harming or killing the people around them. We implore the Forest Minister to grant Sunder his freedom by this Independence Day in order to save not only Sunder’s life but also the lives of the people around him.”

A scandal is growing over the way some elephants used in Indian temples to represent the Hindu god Ganesha are being housed and mistreated. Frequently controlled through beatings and prodded and gouged in sensitive areas behind their knees and ears with an ankus, they languish without veterinary care for even serious conditions, sustain leg injuries and are fed unsuitable food. Many elephants at Indian temples also show signs of severe psychological distress – such as swaying, head-bobbing and weaving – behaviour not found in healthy elephants in nature. Elephants also suffer from a lack of exercise and years spent standing in one position on hard concrete surfaces amid their own waste, which can lead to painful and crippling foot ailments and arthritis. Frustrated captive Indian elephants commonly harm or kill their mahouts or others around them.

Hollywood actor Pamela Anderson and former Beatle Paul McCartney have joined PETA’s call for Sunder to be freed from the chains and released in a sanctuary.

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