Sunder the Rescued Elephant’s Transformation Is Beautiful

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3 min read

It took years and the support of hundreds of thousands of people to win Sunder’s freedom. And his smile is worth it all.

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Sunder was still just a young elephant in 2007 when he was given to a temple in Kolhapur, India, to be used as a living begging bowl to collect money from villagers in exchange for “blessings.” His handler kept him tightly chained and frequently beat him mercilessly to “train” him and force him to obey. When PETA India discovered him, his body was covered in telltale signs of abuse, including an injury to his eye and a gouged hole in his ear. The group immediately began working to win his freedom, and it was no easy task.

In 2013, PETA India released shocking video footage it had obtained of Sunder’s handler viciously beating him. Hundreds of thousands of people contacted Indian authorities and demanded that the suffering elephant be seized. Scores of celebrities—including Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson—made personal appeals to lawmakers on his behalf. And PETA India took the campaign to free him all the way to the Indian Supreme Court.

The elephant’s champions prevailed. Indian authorities ordered that he be released, and on June 5, 2014, PETA India veterinarians and other rescuers arrived to take him to the Bannerghatta Biological Park, 122 acres of protected forests, streams, and ponds. Two members of the staff were beaten, an angry mob pelted them with stones, and someone cut the truck’s tires, but Sunder was removed under police protection.

And just look at our boy now. Look at the size of him! With his squinty-eyed smile and trunk outstretched to touch one of his park caregivers, he’s like a different elephant.

Now healthy and strong, he loves foraging in the woods and splashing in the ponds—but he comes running when he hears the food truck. A social butterfly, he is friends with all the elephants who share his home and is especially attentive to Menaka, his first girlfriend. He has made friends with the wild elephants he meets and even had one of them over to hang out with him in his treatment corral at the sanctuary!

As PETA India’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Manilal, put it, “In short, he lives the life of an elephant now.”

Thank you to all of you who helped win this victory for Sunder.

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