Raju’s Tears of Joy After 50 Years in Chains
Emotions were high over the weekend as a team of veterinarians and elephant keepers from Wildlife SOS, Humane Society International’s (HSI) Indian project partners, combined with Forest Department staff and police in the daring rescue of Raju, a 50 year old elephant who has lived his entire life in chains. Following several months of planning involving undercover surveillance, investigations and court hearings, the team approached in the middle of the night to take Raju to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura.
“It was incredibly emotional; Raju had been in chains 24 hours a day for 50 years, an act of intolerable cruelty. Until we stepped in he’d never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles, and now begins his journey to learn what kindness feels like. We were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue, and knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed,” said Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan.
Chains were wound painfully tightly around Raju’s legs in a last ditch attempt by his former owner to prevent the rescue, causing the liberation to take more than 45 minutes, but finally Raju was free. “We all had tears in our eyes as the rope which held the final spike was cut and Raju took his first steps of freedom. The team was exhausted but elated. Raju suffered unthinkable abuse and trauma for so long. His spirit was broken,” said Kartick.
With time being of the essence HSI committed to funding the rescue operation entirely, and is now raising funds to cover costs as well as set Raju up for the rest of his life. The first months are bound to be challenging due to his abusive history, though we are confident Raju’s journey to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre will see the days of a torment filled life and abusive environment behind him. A special pond is being made and he will not be alone any more, with two male companions in Rajesh and Bhola and five friendly females all eagerly welcoming Raju to the centre.
HSI Director Verna Simpson said that, “The commitment and courage displayed by Wildlife SOS staff throughout the rescue process has been phenomenal. Raju’s case is particularly tragic; after being sold to new owners close to 30 times his condition was shocking, with exhaustion and hunger driving him to eat plastic in a desperate quest for nourishment.”
“This incredibly daring rescue by Wildlife SOS is well worth celebrating, though the road is not clear just yet. There’s a desperate need to cover the costs of the rescue and the construction and maintenance of Raju’s elephant pond and shelter, as well as to foot an elephant-sized feed bill,” Ms Simpson concluded.
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