An Indian court has ordered the release of Sunder, an elephant in an Indian temple that was reportedly being beaten and abused, causing widespread consternation.

The High court in the provincial capital Mumbai on Tuesday ordered that the elephant be released in a sanctuary.

An animal welfare group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had taken up the cause of the elephant and had moved the court to implement his release.

The forest department of Maharashtra had last year ordered the elephant’s release but the owners had not carried the order through.

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Media reports said Vinay Kore, a legislator from Maharashtra’s Kolhapur town gifted Sunder to the Jotiba temple, where he was allegedly abused by the temple authorities.

A recent leaked video showed the elephent being ill-treated.

Sunder has been in the news for the last one year. In August last, following anger at the treatment meted out to him, international celebrities including the Beatles group member Sir Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson of Baywatch serial fame wrote to the Maharashtra state government to free him from the temple custody, reports said.

A retinue of top actors in the Mumbai film industry including Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit have also come out campaigning for his release.

In India there are reportedly more than 3,000 captive elephants, most of them in the southern state of Kerala.

Though revered in the Hindu religion, during festival seasons, critics say the elephants are forced to stand motionless for several hours in the tropical heat.

They are typically held immobile by chains that are tied to their feet. And, to top it, they need to tolerate the sound of drums, loud music and cracker bursts that are part of most festivities.

Not a surprise then that captive elephants in the course of various festivals go berserk.

In the last 12 years, at least 212 people have been killed in Kerala by these elephants, many of them handlers, reports quoting the Elephant Lovers Association say.

In the same period, the Kerala-based association is reported to have found at least 1000 elephants dead due to torture.

Source: Al Jazeera