Raju, a 50-year old Indian elephant was finally rescued last week after a lifetime of abuse. During the rescue, when it became clear that the group of 32 people, which included ten veterinarians, were there to rescue him, big crocodile tears rolled down his leathery cheeks.
“The team was astounded to see the tears,” said Pooja Binepal, a spokesman for Wildlife SOS, the wildlife rescue group that coordinated the effort. ”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.”
Indeed, poor Raju who had been likely captured as a baby, was sold many times during his 50 years. His most recent owner cruelly chained him 24-hours a day with spiked chains, forced him to work and beat him when he did not.
During the rescue his sadistic owner tried to abort the rescue by layering tight chains and spikes on the elephant and then yelling commands to confuse Raju. Fortunately, Raju listened to his rescuers instead and soon was free.
Following his emancipation, he was taken to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, India. His underweight body was covered in abscesses and wounds, but he is expected to make a full recovery. Wildlife SOS is facilitating his medical care and helping to introduce him to other elephants at the center. On July 4th he took his first free steps in 50 years.
The average lifespan for elephants is 60 to 70 years, so hopefully Raju can enjoy his retirement and freedom for years to come.
To see more photos of the rescue visit Wildlife SOS.