For almost all of his 50 years, Raju the elephant has been kept in captivity as a working pachyderm, starved and used as a “begging elephant.”
The rescue organization Wildlife SOS conducted a daring rescue of Raju on July 4th (appropriately, Independence Day in the U.S.!) and getting him away from the villainous owner who kept him chained up and worn out.
The rescuers believe Raju was probably born in the wild almost 50 years ago and when he was just a baby, caught and sent to live his life as a working elephant. He has spent almost 50 years in chains and most likely would have died never known freedom, forced to eat paper and plastic.
What has captured worldwide attention was the response from Raju after his chains were removed. His rescuers, including veterinarian Dr. Yaduraj were astounded when the elephant began crying as his spiked chains were removed. Wildlife SOS rescuer Pooja Binepal says:
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.”
People would give the mahout tips in exchange for ‘blessings’ by Raju. Most of the food he got was inappropriate for an elephant. However, half starving, Raju would eat almost anything
Raju’s rescue mission began on the night of July 2. His mahout and previous owner were non-cooperative and made things very difficult to rescue Raju.
They put more chains on him and pulled the spikes tighter and then had people blocking the roads leading to the rescue truck.
Raju’s life of 50 years begging all day in the hot heat with very little to eat was taking a terrible toll on him. He appeared exhausted and worn down.
After Raju had been traumatized by his owners, rescuers worked hard to gain his trust. After several hours of giving Raju fruits and encouragement, he was able to get loaded onto the truck.
Kartick Satyanarayan, the charity’s co-founder, said the mahout tried to make the elephant charge by shouting commands.
h/t: Wildlife SOS