Raju the Elephant Cries Tears of Joy While Being Rescued From 50 Years of Captivity

While we’re still mourning the loss of majestic Satao, in India, an emaciated begging elephant named Raju is giving the world something to smile about.

Raju was enslaved and used by a drug dealer for 50 years of his life. Piercing metal spikes penetrated his elephant flesh and shackled him for those 50 years. But Raju has gotten a second chance. His weeping tears during his rescue are giving the world a glimmer of hope.

Rajus 50 Years of Abuse

Raju never had a normal life. As reported in The Independent, Raju’s life consisted of frequent beatings and intentional starvation to control him. The poor elephant often had to resort to consuming paper and plastic to fill up his large belly.

He was plucked from the wild by poachers as a baby. The calf’s life was riddled with many different owners — possibly, as many as 27 — who probably weren’t too concerned with his welfare.

The last owner was one of the worst. The drug dealer exploited Raju daily by parading him around for tourists in the streets of Allahabad. He also preyed on religious pilgrims claiming that Raju would bless them for a price. The elephant’s tail was practically hairless since his owner would rip his hair and market it a type of good luck charm.

Raju never had a home, or anything close to the bond of a herd. Even during India’s blazing summers, he lived chained outside with no shelter. It’s a miracle that he survived so long.

Rajus Teary Rescue

He probably wouldn’t have made it much longer without the help of Wildlife SOS charity.

The starving and aging elephant lived in constant pain. Imagine what having spikes penetrating your flesh every second would feel like for 50 years? Raju had abscesses, wounds (from the spikes and the spear that was used to dominate him) and chronic arthritis. Every step Raju took was accompanied by oozing pus from his wounds as the spikes dug deeper into his flesh.

Raju also had a type of pain that we may not scientifically understand — a broken spirit.

The elephant was very distrusting of humans because he mostly knew human brutality. His rescuers worked tirelessly to gain his trust. Fruit and positive encouragement eventually got him into the van destined for an elephant sanctuary and a life of freedom.

As reported in Mirror Online, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, explained that the drug dealer vehemently tried to stop the rescue operation; he put even more chains on Raju, he tried to block them from reaching Raju and he tried to get the bull to charge his rescuers with verbal commands. But Wildlife SOS rescuers were determined to save the elephant.

Satyanarayan describes the beautiful moment: “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.”

We’ll never be sure what exactly Raju felt. I’m sure that he felt something. I’m not trying to solely anthropomorphize Raju. According to PBS, elephants lead rich emotional lives. There are numerous anecdotes documenting elephant joy, love, grief, rage, stress, compassion and altruism.

Raju’s first steps as a free elephant were on the American Independence Day holiday. The exhausted and teary-eyed team worked for 45 minutes to remove every spike chain. Raju was then taken to a pen to receive medical care, but he will join two other sanctuary elephants, who are also victims of human brutality, soon.

Elephant Cruelty in India

Raju is one of the lucky ones. Indian elephants are the victims of overwhelming cruelty. As reported in USA Today, not even Paul McCartney’s starpower has saved Sunder, an abused 14-year-old elephant. In 2012, McCartney shared the elephant’s predicament, and the Indian government agreed to release Sunder to the wild. Fast-forward to 2014, news broke that a local politician took the elephant to his home and shackled him to a shed instead, much like Raju.

As Sunder’s story highlights, Indian authorities aren’t supporting elephant welfare efforts, and, sometimes, they contribute to elephant cruelty.

Help Animals India covers the extent of this cruelty. In India, an estimated 4,000 captive elephants endure lives of poor housing, undernourishment and starvation, water scarcity, over and under physical activity, punishment-based training that beats them into submission and a life of loneliness.

Raju’s drug dealing owner might have promoted the elephant as lucky and blessed, but Raju truly is. He is one of 4,000 elephants. Fortunately, Raju’s abscesses, wounds, long nails, overgrown footpads, arthritis and constant pain can be treated, or, at best, managed. His spirit may take some time, but, to me, elephants are capable of more love, compassion and forgiveness than most people.

Photo Credit: PatrynWorldLatestNew / YouTube screenshot


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

K Terri Morris
K Terri Morris4 years ago

Nobody has any business having any animal such as an elephant in his own back yard. The shackles were so they could control such a large animal, because his size alone would take the household out. It is disgusting! I am happy Raju is finally free of his piercing bonds. I wish there were no other elephants in India suffering the same fate. The Indian government needs to step up. This is gross and inhumane. Only a sadist would consider housing an elephant or any other animal in such circumstances as okay.

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths4 years ago

Any incidence of such disgusting abuse is a disgrace to humanity. Unfortunately those who recognize other species as sentinent and deserving of equal rights to humans are too few. Will this elephant's torturers be prosecuted? We must fight to ensure abusers are prosecuted.

Mandy H.
Mandy H4 years ago

The poor baby, it's a good thing that someone cared enough to save him and that they were able to save him despite the dealer trying everything not to let him be saved. It's sad that he was hurt when the spikes came off but I'm sure now that he's had treatment and will have friends soon that he'll get better and his spirits will pick up again.

Monique C.
Monique C4 years ago

I watched the first three seconds of that video, which was enough for me:-(

Lise van den Broek

Blessed be the rescuers of Raju, seems that the elephant is happy now, no more torture
at least for this one. But there are so many elephants and other animals who are waiting to be released from their torturers. Keep up the good work

Clara Halfin
Clara Halfin4 years ago

Blessed be Rajus rescuers and blessed be Rajus life...

Sheila S.
Sheila S4 years ago

cantwrite -cryingtoohard. thankyouforrescue.

Nancy Black
Nancy Black4 years ago

Sad life; happy ending. It is wonderful that some humans care and respect life; they help erase the scar on civilized man and our culture that the others who abuse, torture, humiliate, and kill make. These caring humans make us proud to be human beings while the others make us ashamed to be human and exist.

Glenda L.
Glenda L4 years ago

How sad!! Humans can be so terrible. I know the drug dealer will get his karmic reward for this, but I hope it's sooner rather than later.