Moved by the condition of a temple elephant in Kolhapur that was allegedly beaten and kept in chains, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney has written to state Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam, requesting him to take action to rehabilitate the animal.

McCartney called on Kadam to draw his attention to Sunder, an elephant at Jyotibha temple in Kolhapur district, after People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India investigated complaints from local residents that the animal was being abused.

“I have seen photographs of young Sunder, the elephant kept alone in a shed at Jyotibha Temple and put in chains with spikes,” McCartney wrote in his letter.

“I appeal to you to do what is right here and get Sunder post-haste to rehabilitation in the forest. Years of his life have been ruined by keeping him and abusing him in this way and enough is enough,” he wrote.

Around three weeks ago, the PETA team found a young elephant, around 13 years of age, being kept in a pathetic condition at the temple. “All his legs were chained and his mahout (handler) was young, newly appointed and hardly had any experience. There was a hole in the animal’s ear, like every captive elephant has, where a sharp hooked weapon, called the ankus, is jabbed to control the animal and he had a severe injury in the right eye due to the same instrument. He did not have access to water or enough food,” said Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs, PETA India.

When McCartney, a PETA supporter, was informed about the elephant, he immediately offered to help, said Valliyate. “Even though he was busy with the London Olympics rehearsals, he wrote the letter almost within a day of informing him,” he said.

The PETA team has filed a complaint in the case with the local police and is also in constant touch with Kadam. “We have informed him about the elephant and shown him the photographs as well. He told us that the matter is under review and no decision has been taken so far,” said Valliyate. PETA is also in touch with local MLA Vinay Kore, who donated the elephant to the temple. “He was unaware that the elephant was being mistreated and is sympathetic,” said Valliyate.

Animal welfare organisations said such cases are not new and many temple elephants are abused across the country. “We had found an elephant in Pali, Raigad, which had lost an ear, and another one that was regularly chained in another part of Maharashtra. But such cases are common across the country. Elephants are made to walk long distances in the wild but kept in captivity, they suffer from mental and physical distress,” added Valliyate.

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