For fifty years, Raju endured various forms of abuse and lived in chains 24/7. When he became aware of his rescue, the elephant couldn’t contain his emotions and began to weep.
Can you imagine what it would be like to live in confinement day in and day out, endure painful shackles around your feet, and be treated only as property, rather than a thinking, feeling being? That’s what Raju the elephant endured for fifty years, until finally – earlier this summer – he was gifted what should have been his all along: freedom.
For nearly five decades, Raju has walked the dusty roads of India, interacting with tourists for coins and food. When rescued his body bore the signs of malnutrition and scars from physical abuse, reports The Dodo. But, of course, the emotional toll Raju endured was no less traumatic.
Said Pooja Binepal of Wildlife SOS: Raju’s case was particularly tragic. He has been sold on and on. We believe he has had up to 27 owners. By the time we found him he was in a pathetic condition. He wasn’t fed properly and was in a state of hunger and exhaustion. He began eating plastic and paper. His nails are severely overgrown, he has abscesses and wounds because of his spiked shackles and continually walking on a Tarmac road has led to his footpad overgrowing.”
In July, a team led by the UK-based animal charity Wildlife SOS intervened to liberate Raju from his cruel existence. When it became clear to the aged elephant that the team was there to help him, he began to weep.
“Raju was in chains 24 hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty. The team was astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was incredibly emotional. We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed. Elephants are majestic and highly intelligent animals. We can only imagine what torture the past half a century has been for him,” shared Pooja.
The rescue took place one year after Raju’s unfortunate situation was first reported and a legal process was begun in partnership with local authorities to have him confiscated from his keeper.
The team worked tirelessly throughout the night to remove the sharp shackles from his feet.
Once freed, the elephant was relocated 350 miles away to Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura, where he received much needed medical care before becoming companions with the other rescued elephants at the sanctuary.
It is believed the elephant was abducted from his mother in the wild some 50 years ago and has suffered mistreatment at the hands of various owners ever since. Thankfully, his life is now drastically different and Raju is much happier.
“Until we stepped in he’d never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles,” says Binepal. “But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like.” To donate toward Raju’s care, contributions can be made at wildlifesos.org.
Check out the one-year update video on Raju below:
*Article originally appeared on Expand Your Consciousness.