High Court Orders Abused Elephant Sunder’S Release To Sanctuary

For Immediate Release:

7 April 2014


Hannah Levitt  +44 (0) 20 7837 6327, ext 235; [email protected]

PETA India Has Campaigned for His Freedom for 21 Months

London – Today, the Honourable Bombay High Court passed a landmark judgment in favour of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India by ordering the implementation of a 21 August 2012 directive from Maharashtra’s Joint Secretary (Forests) to release well-known and much-abused young elephant Sunder to a sanctuary. This decision will be welcomed by celebrities Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson and many others who took to Twitter or helped in other ways with the campaign for his release. The court allowed the writ petition filed by PETA India and dismissed the appeal filed by MLA Vinay Kore, who had given Sunder as a “gift” to the Jyotiba temple in Kolhapur. The court also refused to stay its order, although the senior counsel representing Kore had requested that it do so. PETA India was represented by Senior Counsel Shiraz Rustomjee and Counsel Rohan Rajadhyaksha, who were instructed by M/s K Ashar & Co Advocates & Solicitors, which was on record for PETA India. Sunder is now slated to be transferred to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Bangalore.

The elephant’s beatings had been caught on videotape, and veterinarians and elephant experts who examined Sunder found him scarred and wounded and chained so tightly that he couldn’t lie down. The campaign for his release spanned 21 months as people in India, the UK and many other countries around the world worked to save him from his abusers. PETA India is now calling on Maharashtra Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Sarjan Bhagat to implement the court’s order quickly before Sunder can be harmed again.

The Jyotiba temple came into possession of Sunder in 2007, but after constant chaining and beatings came to light, Maharashtra Minister of Forests Dr Patangrao Kadam (on 21 August 2012) and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (on 9 November 2012) issued orders for Sunder’s release to a sanctuary. However, they were never carried out, and Sunder was then spirited away at the behest of Kore and hidden in an old poultry shed, where he remained chained. In December 2013, PETA India obtained new video footage showing that his mahout was violently beating him.

“Sunder has known physical abuse, chains, loneliness and misery for almost a decade”, says PETA UK’s Mimi Bekhechi. “We are grateful for the High Court ruling calling for his release to a sanctuary. We are looking forward to seeing Sunder receive the care and respect that he deserves.”

For more information on the plight of elephants in captivity, please visit PETA.org.uk.