Elephants are commonly kept chained in small areas, a highly unsuitable environment that prevents them from roaming, bathing, and socializing.

The new 122-acre sanctuary currently houses 15 elephants. Among these elephants is Sunder, who was held in captivity by his handlers for six years. In 2014, after a 21-month-long campaign to free Sunder, the elephant finally was released.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way,” and Bannerghatta Biological Park have teamed up to create India’s first elephant sanctuary in a fenced, forested space that allows elephants to move about rather than being chained in place, the common way in which elephants are still kept elsewhere. The sanctuary is home to 15-year-old Sunderwho was famously liberated by the Indian Supreme Court in 2014 from a harsh life at the Jyotiba temple in Maharashtraand now houses 15 elephants.

This 122-acre sanctuary will allow the herd to roam, bathe in ponds, and socialize without being restricted by chains. Designed by PETA India consultant and elephant expert Carol Buckley, a solar electric fence and a state-of-the-art emergency corral made of steel pipes are under construction and nearly complete. Elephant expert Margaret Whittakerwho designed the elephant andmahout (handler) training facilities and safety measureswill train local caregivers in the principles of “protected contact,” a method of ensuring safe interaction between humans and elephants by keeping them separated by a sturdy barrier and using positive reinforcement techniques instead of the age-old routine of physical punishment to manage the elephants.

“With the freedom to engage in natural behavior within a large open space to call their own, Sunder and his new family have the opportunity to thrive,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk.

“While most captive elephants remain in dire straits, PETA India was able to make the dream of freedom a reality for 15 elephants, thanks to Bannerghatta Biological Park’s help. We hope the sanctuary will act as a model for elephant sanctuaries throughout Asia.”

More PETA: http://www.peta.org/