High Court Orders Abused Elephant Sunder’s Release to Sanctuary

PETA India Has Campaigned for His Freedom for 21 Months

For Immediate Release:
April 7, 2014

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va.

Today, the Honorable Bombay High Court passed a landmark judgment in favor of PETA India by ordering the implementation of an August 21, 2012, directive from the state of Maharashtra’s joint secretary for forests to release well-known and much-abused young elephant Sunder to a sanctuary. This decision will be supported 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 in the matter by Senior Counsel Shiraz Rustomjee and Counsel Rohan Rajadhyaksha, who were instructed by M/s. K. Ashar & Co. Advocates & Solicitors, which were on record for PETA India. Sunder is now slated to be transferred to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Bangalore.

“Sunder has known physical abuse, chains, loneliness, and misery for almost a decade,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “We’re grateful for the High Court ruling calling for his release to a sanctuary. PETA is looking forward to seeing Sunder receive the care and respect that he deserves.”

Sunder’s beatings had been caught on videotape, and veterinarians and elephant experts who examined him 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 and the U.S. and 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 August 21, 2012) and the Project Elephant division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (on November 9, 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 obtained new video footage showing that Sunder’s handler was violently beating him.

For more information, please visit PETA.org or PETA India’s blog.

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