Victory: Elephant Chained for Years to be Freed from Temple Following Appeals from PETA, Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson

For Immediate Release:
23 August 2012

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

Government Issues Order to Move Tusker to Safety

Kolhapur – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India can confirm today that Sunder, a 13-year-old elephant who has been kept chained inside a dark shed at Jyotiba Temple in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra for seven years, will soon be freed and on his way to a better life. Thanks to an order just issued by Maharashtra Forest Minister Dr Patangrao Shripatrao Kadam, who listened carefully to the evidence of cruelty on Sunder and the public outcry. Sunder is to be moved forthwith from the temple and rehabilitated in a wildlife rescue-and-rehabilitation centre near Bangalore. The move comes as a result of a rigorous three-month campaign led by PETA, in which more than 13,000 people from within India alone took part in PETA’s online petition that called for Sunder’s release. The legendary former Beatle Paul McCartney and Hollywood’s Pamela Anderson also lent their support to the campaign by writing letters to government officials.

Sunder, who had been kept chained by temple authorities since 2005, has a hole in his ear that was caused by an ankus – an iron rod with a hook at the end – in addition to scars all over his body and a severely injured eye that was probably caused by a beating. Two weeks ago, Sunder became violent and uncontrollable in response to the abuse that he has suffered at the hands of his mahout (or handler) and temple authorities, tearing down a pillar and trying to flee his captors. He was subdued and returned to his life in chains.

“The difference between Sunder’s cruel life in chains at the temple and his new journey to freedom, love and care is like night and day”, says PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “Daily walks and mental stimulation are essential to elephants’ mental and physical health. Lack of exercise and years spent standing in one position on hard surfaces amid their own waste often lead to painful and crippling foot ailments and arthritis. We are grateful to the Forest Minister for agreeing to liberate Sunder and let him enjoy things that are natural and important to him for the first time in his life.”

The abuse of Sunder highlights the scandal that is growing over the way 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 often 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. Frustrated captive Indian elephants commonly harm or kill their mahouts or others around them.

A copy of the Maharashtra Forest Minister’s order is available upon request. For more information, please visit