Perhaps you retweeted the hashtag #FreeSunder. Millions did and after a couple of years of advances and setbacks in India, the shackled and abused temple elephant named Sunder was finally freed last month. PETA tweeted happy photos of Sunder in the sanctuary, meeting her new elephant herd. The animal activists believe that Sunder was stolen from her mother as a baby and hadn’t seen another elephant since then. Another successful animal rescue for PETA but what was not known is that the rescue wouldn’t have been possible without Sam Simon. He’s the co-creator of The Simpsons and a long time animal activist. The rescuers needed money and he’d helped to rescue animals in the past. Simon agreed to help and now, he estimates the transport, the vet care, the food, so far, has totaled close to a million dollars. But he’s not complaining. Quite the contrary, the 59 year old comes alive when he talks about his rescues.
In late 2012, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and given just 3 to 6 months to live. He got his affairs in order and then he decided to do some good. He got involved in the rescue of some bears in Georgia. He vowed he’d be there when the bears were released from concrete pits, which was 7 months after his diagnosis. He then he found another rescue and then another. These projects kept him going, gave him dates and goals to hit, even when suffering through the side effects of chemotherapy. In addition to the bears, he’s helped rescue a racehorse, chimpanzees and now, his first elephant.
This wasn’t an easy rescue. PETA fought for almost two years to get Sunder out of the temple where he was shackled every day and used as lure for visitors to throw change at him. My contact at PETA tells me the state government wildlife agency got involved, but then the politician who originally donated the elephant to the temple, moved Sunder. What could have been relief for Sunder turned out to be more of the same or worse. PETA found Sunder, under armed guard, chained up again, but this time in an abandoned chicken shed.
The awful video in my story comes from that location. He’s being beaten, even as he struggles to stand up.
More legal wrangling, but ultimately, the Indian Supreme court ordered Sunder’s release. But even then, there was push back. It was the night before Simon’s birthday and he was getting reports from India on how Sunder was doing. He went to bed thinking Sunder would have to wait another day for freedom. PETA calls them hired thugs that intimidated the emergency veterinary team and the helpers. They put nails under the transport truck and followed them, in hopes of stopping the rescue. But, the next day, Simon got word that Sunder was out and safe. He then relished the new videos showing Sunder meeting his new elephant family. “I love looking at the videos and pictures. It makes me very happy.”