MUMBAI ~ Sundar, an eight-year-old elephant on a leash in the backyard of Jyotiba Temple in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district, has caught the attention of actress Pamela Anderson. The elephant’s plight came to light in an investigation by the animal rights organisation People For Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Ill treatment by the mahout and temple authorities have caused Sundar disabilities.
When Sundar was a baby, he was presented to the temple trust by Vinay Khore, an MLA from Kolhapur. Anderson’s letter is addressed to Khore. ‘I am distressed at the plight of the elephant Sundar. Please put an end to the torture and release the elephant in the jungles,’ says the short letter. Anderson is a Peta brand ambassador.
Sources say the elephant is regularly beaten by the mahout and left without water or food for long periods in a bid to “tame it”. The beatings are so merciless that Sundar has lost an eye and can’t stand. It has not been given medical attention and has gotten aggressive. The pachyderm’s condition was brought to Peta’s notice by an animal activist.
Brushing aside Peta’s findings, Khore tells Open that it had “misunderstood” the issue. “The ground reality is not known to them and there is a misunderstanding,” says Khore. “The elephant was born and raised by the temple and belongs to it. Since it is domesticated, the elephant cannot be released in the jungle.”
It is well known that Khore gifted the elephant to the temple. But following the outcry, he has refused to acknowledge this. “The elephant does not belong to me. It will continue to be with the temple,” he says.
After Peta took up the issue, the Kolhapur district collector has set up a committee to monitor Sundar’s health. It constitutes members of the zila parishad and veterinarians from a government animal hospital. Denied sustenance for long, Sundar at last is getting dietary supplements. All that needs to change is the mahout. Sundar reacts violently to his original handler. Unfortunately, since no other mahout is available, the same one continues in his job.▪