Sunder is given as a gift to a temple in Kolhapur, India. At the temple, Sunder spends his days alone, chained in a dark shed. He’s regularly beaten by his mahout (handler).
In one incident, Sunder becomes violent, and in a desperate attempt to escape his abusers, he pulls down the concrete pillar that he was tied to. The frightened elephant ransacks local business displays. He is seen with an injured eye, a hole in his ear that was likely caused by the mahout‘s use of a bullhook (an iron rod with a hook at the end), and scars all over his body.
Word spreads about Sunder’s abuse, and Maharashtra Minister of Forests Dr. Patangrao Kadam (on August 21, 2012) and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (on November 9, 2012) issues orders for Sunder’s release to a sanctuary. However, despite pressure from PETA and other activists, the orders are not carried out, and instead, Sunder is hidden in an old poultry shed, where he remains chained.
PETA India releases undercover video footage of Sunder’s mahout violently abusing him. The elephant’s body shows visible signs of severe abuse. Photos show that Sunder is forced to stand on concrete all day and is denied exercise, which is essential to an elephant’s mental and physical health. His living conditions could make him more likely to contract foot and joint diseases, which could eventually kill him.
After watching the video footage, more than 220,000 people like YOU from around the world take action, writing to authorities to demand that Sunder be released and spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook with the #FreeSunder hashtag.
PETA India files a petition with the Bombay High Court asking the Maharashtra Forest Department to implement its previous order and finally send Sunder to a sanctuary.
Sunder begins his journey to a sanctuary! Before he is loaded onto a truck headed for an elephant care center, a team of experts who traveled to Kolhapur to work with the Maharashtra Forest Department on Sunder’s transport is met with screaming men—including the elephant’s mahout, who shouts the wrong commands in order to agitate Sunder—and near rioting. An angry person even punctures the rescue truck’s tires in an effort to keep Sunder in Kolhapur, where he had been abused for years. Once the truck is on its way, a motorcycle gang follows along behind it, despite police protection. Police officers, the team of experts, and Maharashtra Forest Department officials all travel with Sunder on his journey to a new life.
Sunder arrives at his new home, Bannerghatta Biological Park! At the park, he will soon join a herd of 13 elephants in a spacious 122-acre forested area with ponds and streams. He will never have to be in chains again.
Sunder is now being held in a separate area of the park and loosely restrained while he learns to trust his new caretakers and receives medical treatment for a serious leg injury that was caused by years of chaining. PETA is working with elephant experts to help with Sunder’s transition to his new life, in which he’ll soon be able to roam freely with his new elephant friends!
Sunder has been at Bannerghatta Biological Park and free from abuse for one month. His severe leg injury (as well as his spirit) has started to heal. Sunder enjoys his first bath in a pond! He loves water and using his trunk as a snorkel.
Because Sunder endured violent beatings and solitary confinement for much of his life, his new caretakers continue to handle him cautiously and keep him lightly restrained until he learns to trust those around him.
With the help of PETA India, the Bannerghatta Biological Park—Sunder’s new home—becomes India’s first free-roaming elephant sanctuary. A PETA consultant and elephant expert designed a new solar electric fence and a state-of-the-art emergency corral for Sunder and his 14 elephant friends. Once the fencing is complete, the herd will be able to roam, bathe in ponds, and socialize without being restricted.
With the new fencing, Sunder’s home could act as a model for elephant sanctuaries throughout Asia.
With the freedom to engage in natural behavior within a large open space that they can call their own, Sunder and his new family will continue to thrive.
Thanks to everyone who took action and never gave up! Because of you, Sunder is now happy and safe. We’ll keep you updated on his progress. Stay tuned!