May 31, 2014 SangitaIyer

“For the Love of Elephants” – a Documentary in the Making

For the Love of Elephants is a feature-length documentary film in the making, an expose revealing the dark side of Kerala’s glamorous cultural festivities that exploit captive elephants for profit, and the abhorrent torture these supremely gentle and intelligent animals suffer.

In my view, ignorance and lack of information on the science of these sentient beings are the main causes, as many people aren’t aware of the sensitive and intuitive nature of elephants. Therefore the main intention behind launching my Indiegogo campaign is to produce a film that creates a deeper understanding of the behaviour and social organization of Asian elephants, as well as their inherent abilities to feel and communicate. Using this film I hope to engage key stakeholders, and equip the owners and handlers with positive reinforcement strategies that promote empathy and alleviate the pain and suffering of Kerala’s captive elephants.

Please click on this link to learn about my campaign.

This campaign was inspired by my trip to Kerala, my native home, in December 2013 where I witnessed captive elephants being treated ruthlessly. One of the most appalling sights that will haunt me until I die is that of a blind elephant being paraded in processions, all four legs shackled and with little wiggle room between the legs that were deeply injured.

Another one of the featured elephants in the sneak preview below had just emerged out of his mating period. In his desperate attempt to free himself and release his surging levels of energy and testosterone, (which tends to happen during this annual cycle called Musth), the chains that tethered him 24/7, dug deeper and deeper into his legs creating serious injuries that will take weeks, if not months to heal. But there’s no end in sight for this animal, as you’ll see the way in which the shackles rub against his wounds in this five minute sneak preview of For the Love of Elephants.

Coincidentally, the For the Love of Elephants campaign comes on the heels of a global outcry for the release of a 14-year-old temple elephant Sunder in Kolhapur District, India. He has captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including Sir Paul McCartney who visited India in 2012 asking the Indian authorities to release him into a sanctuary.

As a seven-year-old baby, Sunder’s spirit was crushed after being separated from his family from the jungles of Bihar in Northern India. And since 2007 he has been chained, beaten and brutally abused by his handlers, while being used as a begging bowl for the Jothiba temple in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra State.

Since Sunder’s case of abuse became public in 2012, there has been numerous postponements of court hearings until it was finally heard on March 20, with a verdict expected in one week. However 10 days later nothing. Meantime the elephant remains shackled, battered physically, and tormented emotionally in a local politician’s home in his chicken shack.

As a concerned individual, I contacted Police Inspector Sanjay Patil of Vadgaon police station in Kolhapur last Friday. But despite my polite inquiry about Sunder’s current condition, he shrugged me off in a derogatory manner. I then asked if he was aware of a global outcry and explained that being of Indian origin I was concerned about the country’s reputation, but that went on deaf ears also. I then told him I was a journalist from Toronto and would appreciate a quote on the status of the animal, at which point he hung up on me, saying “wrong number.”

It’s shameful that, in a country where enlightened souls like Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed their lives for non-violence, animal cruelty still prevails. This profound quote on animals by Gandhi speaks volumes on what he expects of Indian people, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

In doing my part as a journalist it’s my mission to educate the masses on this very important issue of festivities and temple rituals that use elephants, when every single religion denounces abuse of any living being. My hope is, once people are well informed, they’d feel compassion towards these majestic animals and be inspired to take necessary steps in helping alleviate the pain and suffering of these gentle giants.

I’d be immensely grateful if you considered supporting this very important cause in this time of our planet’s history when the survival of Asian elephants is under serious threat.