A long and arduous battle has finally been won. Sunder, the tormented elephant whose cause was upheld by many celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney, Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Pamela Anderson, is free at last.

In an emotional moment for many at the Bannerghatta National Park near Bangalore, Sunder was escorted by a group of 13 elephants to the elephant care centre on Friday. “Oh, Sunder felt exhilarated! He was so tired due to the 25-hour journey. But the moment this group of elephants, including 12 females and one male, came near him, he looked relieved. This must have been the first time Sunder saw animals of his own species,” Dr. Manilal Valliyate, PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs, told The Hindu.

“A baby elephant got curious about Sunder. He ran to the ramp where Sunder was standing, scaring him completely! It was funny to see Sunder get a bit scared of a baby elephant,” he said.

The Bombay High Court had directed the Forest department officials to move Sunder from Wararanagar in Kolhapur to a rehabilitation centre in Bannerghatta, after it found that the tusker had been chained and ill-treated at a temple.

For the next few days, Sunder will be kept tied at the national park till he builds the confidence to roam around with other elephants.

PETA campaign

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had run an extensive #FreeSunder campaign which attracted many supporters in the digital world as well.

A special team comprising veterinary doctors and trained mahouts was called in from Kerala to move the pachyderm to Bangalore. Kerala also sent a specially designed open truck to transport Sunder. An elephant ambulance also accompanied the entourage.

Activists see sabotage

Activists initially suspected foul play when they faced obstacles in moving Sunder out of Kolhapur. Sunder’s mahout suddenly disappeared the day authorities decided to move him out. Then, the tyres of the truck carrying Sunder, and the elephant ambulance, were found punctured with nails.