After a Lifetime of Abuse, Sunder Gets a New Home

Profile photo of kjohnson

Posted March 13, 2014 by Kim Johnson

Thanks to caring people like you who took action, elephant Sunder begins a new life free from abuse. Here’s his story:


Sunder is given as a gift to a temple in Kolhapur, India. Sunder elephant At the temple, Sunder spends his days alone, chained in a dark shed. He’s regularly beaten by his mahout (handler).   Sunder chained feet


Sunder pillar 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.

sunder blurred face

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.

April 7, 2014

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 chained legs

June 5, 2014

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 on the road3

Sunder on the road1

Sunder on the road2

Sunder on the road4

June 6, 2014

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 already making himself at home at the elephant sanctuary, where he will soon join a herd of 13 elephant friends!

Sunder is already making himself at home at the elephant sanctuary, where he will soon join a herd of 13 elephant friends!

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 is greeted with fruit when he arrives at the sanctuary.

Sunder is greeted with fruit when he arrives at the sanctuary.

Sunder's soon-to-be BFF's enjoy the lake! Sunder's new home is a spacious, forested area where he can explore.

Sunder’s soon-to-be BFF’s enjoy the lake! Sunder’s new home is a spacious, forested area where he can explore.

July 2014

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 leg wound healing Sunder enjoys his first bath in a pond! He loves water and using his trunk as a snorkel.

Sunder makes lots of friends in his new home.

Sunder is getting to know baby Shiva.

Sunder is getting to know baby Shiva.

Lakshmi and Sunder love hanging out.

Lakshmi and Sunder love hanging out.

sunder-enjoying-bath-with-lakshmi 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.

Sunder takes a walk through the park with his caretaker.

Sunder takes a walk through the park with one of his caretakers.

Sunder's caretaker gives him a coconut.

Sunder’s caretaker gives him a coconut.

February, 2015

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.

Sunder eating Feb 2015

With the new fencing, Sunder’s home could act as a model for elephant sanctuaries throughout Asia.

sunder new fence collage

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!

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  • Profile photo of brianamedina11

    627 days ago

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    This literally made me so happy.

  • Profile photo of amym01

    667 days ago

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    This is lovely!! so glad someone actually listened <3

  • Profile photo of Emilyjade

    681 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Such a positive outcome, I’m so glad he is now enjoying a free life

  • Profile photo of C2AnimalLovers77

    724 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Thank you so much for this post.

  • Profile photo of IeshaValerie

    743 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    yaaay i love peta for helping all animlas it makes me sooo happy

  • Profile photo of missherbivore

    745 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Makes my heart so happy <3 I love you all, PETA for life.

  • Profile photo of catapillerr

    840 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    i cant believe people can live with themselves when abusing animals like that. why cant everyone just have some humanity and treat animals equally. Every animal deserves a chance to live a good life. im glad Sunder got his chance 🙂

  • Profile photo of xobloodyheartxo

    884 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    This made me smile. 🙂

  • Profile photo of

    888 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    So happy to for him. I think I’m gonna cry.

  • Profile photo of cerealzisgood

    903 days ago

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    holy crap im so glad some people out there still have hearts, thank you to the people who helped =D im so happy about this

  • Profile photo of frenchhorn

    908 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I cried tears of joy when I read this. I haven’t done that in over a year. I feel so good knowing I helped Sunder finlly be freed!!! This right here is proof that PETA is fighting the good fight (despite what my meat-munching peers seem to believe) and that animals deserve freedom!

  • Profile photo of alexblue

    912 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Many thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. One done, so many more to free!
    Whoever makes those spiky leg chains needs to be put out of business too…so cruel!

  • Profile photo of hakred

    913 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Finally.. 🙂

  • 914 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    so happy he got the happy ending he deserved.

  • Profile photo of Bluehawaii01

    916 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    I’m so happy to see this!

  • 918 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Thank you for what you did for Sunder, he has a new life to look forward to, free from pain and cruelty. It was a long, hard frustrating battle but justice was done. Thank you from the bottom from my heart for doing what was right.

  • 975 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]


    why did it take 6 years this video and over 200 signatures for them to realize this is wrong!!!!

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