Elephant welfare expert Carol Buckley says rescued elephant is in good hands at model facility.
More than a month after his rescue from a life of horrific suffering, 15-year-old bull elephant Sunder is enjoying lush forests, cool ponds and the close companionship of 14 other elephants at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) outside Bangalore, India.
Sunder’s tragic plight touched the hearts of people from all around the world and galvanized an international social media campaign that helped win his release and recovery.
“Sunder has a new life and a fresh start at a wonderful facility,” said Carol Buckley, an expert in innovative approaches to elephant welfare in captivity, who recently visited Sunder in India to design a chain-free facility at the park where he now lives.
“Thanks to the courage of the Supreme Court of India, which ruled against Sunder’s longtime abusers, the willingness of BBP to accept Sunder for permanent residence and the tireless logistical and legal efforts of PETA India, Sunder’s future looks very bright.”
Buckley, who founded and leads the US-based nonprofit Elephant Aid International, says BBP has all the desired components for captive elephants. Its 122 acres of diverse habitat include open pasture, shaded forests and ponds, where the elephants are free to roam and play during the day. At night, they are given access to the adjoining national park forest for foraging and exploration.
The upcoming construction of a custom designed, solar powered, chain-free perimeter fence system to enclose the entire daytime habitat will give the elephants even more autonomy. The fence creates a safe containment area, eliminating the need for mahouts to dictate the elephants’ activities. It should be completed before the end of the year and will be the first constructed at any zoo in India.
Buckley noted that unlike most elephant facilities throughout the world, BBP’s mahouts manage their captive elephants in a “herder style” manner that supports their physical, emotional and mental health. This style of management acknowledges elephants’ nature as highly social, herd animals, giving them freedom to wander at will while mahouts keep a watchful eye on their whereabouts.
“Bannerghatta Biological Park, working in partnership with PETA India, offers the world an exemplary model for managing captive-held elephants and the best possible new home for Sunder,” said Buckley. “I’m so grateful for their efforts.”