Sunder, the elephant, to walk free

Team of mahouts, veterinarians from Kerala to oversee transfer to Bannerghatta

May 25, 2014 02:21 am | Updated November 16, 2021 06:45 pm IST - MUMBAI

A month after the Bombay High Court ordered the release of the chained tusker, the forest department said it has finally put together a team of experts which will transport Sunder from captivity in Warananagar to a rehabilitation centre in the Bannerghatta national park in Karnataka. The Bombay High Court had ordered the Forest department officials to move Sunder to a rehabilitation centre before the onset of monsoon.

The elephant is now at the property of a local politician Vinay Kore at Warananagar in Kolhapur district. He had gifted the tusker to a temple, where it was ill-treated, after which the court ordered that it be kept in an open area.

Special teams of mahouts and veterinary doctors have been called in from Kerala to assist the transfer.

The plight of the chained tusker had moved many national and international celebrities like Pamela Anderson, Sir Paul McCartney, Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit who rallied for his release.

Baywatch star Pamela Anderson recently wrote on her Facebook wall, “Poor beautiful Sunder – it’s progressing - but not fast enough. A lot of politics. PETA has lawyers — undercover footage — it’s a desperate situation. Heart Breaking.” She was responding to a question posed by a fan on May 21.

Recent medical reports have sparked renewed concerns about Sunder’s health. He was found to have suffered a massive wound on his left leg due to being continuously tied by heavy chains. The report accessed by The Hindu has warned against keeping Sunder in Warananagar any longer. “He is under risk of further injuries from mismanagement at his present location and should be moved to Bangalore on an emergency basis,” Dr. Sasindradev, Forest Veterinary Officer of Konni, Pathanamthitta in Kerala, stated in his examination report.

The doctor further marked that both tusks were “wearing out due to constant lying on concrete floor.” “Sunder is in unremarkable heath condition, is active and free from any external sign of musth. Although there is a large wound caused by poor management, the elephant is fit for transportation under supervision,” the report concluded.

A review petition, filed by Mr. Kore, challenging the court’s decision has been filed recently in the Supreme Court. “But since there is no order restraining us from implementing the Bombay High Court’s order, the Supreme Court litigation will not affect our operation,” M.K. Rao, Chief Conservator of Forests, Kolhapur, told The Hindu .

He said two mahouts and two veterinary doctors had been called in from Kerala to help in the operation. They will arrive in Kolhapur on May 31. A special truck has been hired, so also a private Elephant Care Unit, which is an ambulance.

“But the biggest question is how to acclimatise the elephant to board a truck,” Mr. Rao told The Hindu . He said Sunder may board the truck on the first day or may take a few days. “You can’t force him,” he added. His acclimatisation process will determine the date of transfer.

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