Imagine being chained and confined for 50 years of your life. Imagine your only “release” was being forced to walk for hours on end, giving rides to tourists. Imagine for all those years, you were malnourished and beaten. Any of us would have an emotional response after even a minute of that treatment. Raju, an elephant who had that existence for 50 years, shed tears when rescuers came to free him.
A team from the UK-based rescue group, Wildlife SOS, coordinated Raju’s rescue mission, which happened almost exactly one year after the group started working on confiscating Raju from his cruel owner.
“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,” said Pooja Binepal of Wildlife SOS. “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.”
When it became clear to Raju that the team of 10 veterinarians and wildlife experts were there to free him, the elephant wept.
“The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue,” said Binepal. “It was incredibly emotional. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed.”
After finally removing Raju from his cruel owner, the elephant was relocated 350 miles away to Wildlide SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura, where he will receive much needed medical care before becoming companions with the other rescued elephants at the sanctuary.
To donate toward Raju’s care, contributions can be made at wildlifesos.org.
Photo credit: Wildlife SOS India