Days after the Supreme Court upheld the Bombay High Court order, elephant Sunder is finally on his way to freedom having boarded the truck to a rescue and rehabilitation centre at Bangalore under mild sedation on Thursday morning.
The Supreme Court had on May 29 upheld the Bombay High Court’s judgment ordering Sunder’s release by June 15. Peta India had since 2012 alleged that Sunder was ill-treated by his mahouts and was not given proper care at his tethering place at Warnanagar near Kolhapur.
In an operation that began around 6.30 am, forest officials from the Kolhapur division and veterinarians called in specially for the operation from Kerala first tried to lure the elephant inside the truck. But the absence of his mahout made it difficult to control the elephant, forcing the vets to tranquilise the pachyderm, said forest officials.
Officials managed to put Sunder inside the truck and set off to the Bannerghatta zoo around 9am. Two vets, their assistants as well as officials from the Kolhapur forest division will accompany the elephant to the centre, around 600 kilometres away. This would be the longest distance an untrained elephant will be travelling during a transfer, said M K Rao, chief conservator of forests, Kolhapur division.
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To help Sunder get into the truck, officials had dug a ditch just outside his tethering place and lowered the back end of the special truck to allow the pachyderm to climb on to it through a special downward-sloping ramp. Since June 1, forest officials have been trying to entice Sunder into climbing on to the truck by placing bananas, jackfruits, pineapples, sugarcanes and some jaggery inside. After the first two unsuccessful days, officials allowed Sunder to rest and on Thursday attempted to get Sunder to board the truck.
The elephant was first gifted by MLA Vinay Kore to Kolhapur’s Jyotiba Temple trustees for use during their religious functions, but after such allegations surfaced, the elephant was shifted to Warnanagar.