After being chained and abused for 50 years, an Indian elephant has finally been freed from his life of bondage.
Raju had been living on scraps and handouts from passersby after being captured by his abusive master. As a result, he was left bleeding and in serious pain from the spiked shackles around his legs.
Following fifty years of abuse, when he was rescued by a wildlife charity, the animal cried tears of relief. The operation took place in the middle of the night in order to avoid being caught. Raju was freed on Independence Day – the perfect day to be liberated.
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Wildlife SOS, the charity based in North London, are the heroes in this story, saving Raju from his tragic fate when they heard of his captivity in India.
Via Daily Mail:
Every day, the majestic animal was forced to hold out his trunk and beg for a few coins from passers-by – surviving only on plastic and paper for food.
However, last week, a 10-strong team of vets and wildlife experts from the charity were joined by 20 forestry department officers and six policemen to seize Raju from his suffering in the Uttar Pradesh area of India.
‘The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed.
‘Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals, who have been proven to have feelings of grief, so we can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him.
‘Until we stepped in he’d never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles – it’s a truly pitiful case.
‘But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like and what it’s like to not suffer any more.’
The daring rescue came exactly a year to the day since the charity was alerted to Raju’s plight by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in India.
A confiscation process went through the courts as Raju’s owner did not have any legal documents for his possession meaning the charity could rescue him from suffering.
Although no one is certain how the beautiful animal got into the terrible predicament, Wildlife SOS believes he was snatched away from his mother when he was a baby.
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The team who came to rescue Raju was led by Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan; they observed the elephant for two days before taking action.
“As we watched we quickly realised that we had to act as quickly as possible as his situation was so desperate and the cruelty so extreme so we decided to move the rescue forward by a day,” said Satyanarayan.
“The chains around his legs had spikes which were cutting into his flesh – and each time he moved puss would ooze out of wounds,” Satyanarayan continued. “Pain and brutality were all he knew.”
“His cruel handler even tore out the hair from his tail to sell as good luck charms. The exploitation and abuse just had to stop.”
When Raju’s owner sensed the impending rescue mission, he attempted to scare the elephant by shouting commands and provoking him to fear.
“It created an incredibly dangerous situation as a bull elephant could snap a human like a tooth pick if he becomes afraid or angry,” said Satyanarayan. “When that failed he then put a series of chains around his legs in an attempt to prevent us removing him – so viciously tight that were cutting into his legs.
“But we stood our ground and refused to back down – and as we did so, tears began to roll down Raju’s face. Some no doubt were due to the pain being inflicted by the chains, but he also seemed to sense that change was coming. It was as if he felt hope for the first time in a very long time.
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“We knew it was now or never so we made the drastic decision to move his transportation truck closer and then walk him 200 yards. Every step would have been agony, but we had to take him, or he could have vanished forever. We decided we’d remove the shackles once we’d got him to safety.”
Incredibly, Raju calmly complied, despite every step causing searing agony.
“It was as if he knew we wanted to help him,” Mr. Satyanarayan said.
Upon being loaded into the truck, Raju was sedated and driven 350 miles away to the charity’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura.
The five-and-a-half ton elephant stepped off the truck one minute after midnight on the 4th of July, “which felt so extraordinarily fitting,” said Mr. Satyanarayan.
“The other elephants in the sanctuary awoke from their sleep as we pulled in and came to have a look – it was an extraordinary moment.”
After feeding him a healthy meal of mango, bananas, bread, biscuits, and water, the Wildlife SOS vet, Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar, began to remove the shackles. Forty-five minutes later, with the aid of two handlers, Raju was freed from his shackles.
“We all had tears in our eyes as the last rope which held the final spike was cut and Raju took his first steps of freedom,” said Satyanarayan. “The entire team were exhausted, but incredibly elated as he has suffered such unthinkable abuse and trauma for so, so long. He’d been beaten so badly, his spirit is broken.”
Raju was treated over the Fourth of July weekend with food, a bath, and emergency medical attention for his wounds.
“When he is ready he will initially join two companion elephants called Rajesh and Bhola, who once also suffered unthinkable cruelty,” Satyanarayan continued. “They’ve both been rehabilitated and once he settles he will learn how to live again by following their example, before he joins the rest of the elephants – including five flirtatious females to live out his days.
“But for the moment he’s tasting freedom for the first time in his life and he’ll spend the rest of his life in a safe compound living out his days in dignity, free from suffering and pain.”
In an effort to help Raju begin his liberated life with his adoptive family in a new enclosure, a charity has launched a campaign to raise £10,000.
Photo Credit: Daily Mail
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