Raju the Elephant spent 50 years shackled in India and his owner forced him to beg for money. One charity couldn’t bear the thought of another day of enslavement for poor Raju and made a daring midnight rescue of him. This is how it unfolded.
1. How Poachers Enslave Elephants
Elephants such as Raju typically get poached as young calves from their mothers. Poachers sometimes sent traps for herds of elephants in such a way that only the calves fall through. Their mothers spend days crying for their lost babies.
The rescue team believes Raju has had up to 27 owners. Poachers will beat calves until they mentally give up and accept their situation.
2. Shackled and Bound
Raju’s owners shackled him with spikes. Each step drove the spikes into his legs. Pus constantly oozed out from the cuts in his flesh. Abscesses and wounds formed due to his owner’s treatment.
3. Life on the Streets
His owners used Raju as a way to get more money from tourists. They would set him out on the street where he would use his trunk to beg for money. Tourists took pity on him and fed him food. Raju would get so hungry he would eat the paper and plastic that came with the food.
4. Raju’s Rescue Team
Last week, a charity organization, North London-based charity Wildlife SOS, decided to mount a daring rescue. The local forestry department and policemen joined with them to execute the plan.
Pooja Binepal of the charity group explained their decision:
By the time we found him in July 2013 he was in a pathetic condition. He had no shelter at night, and was being used as a prop to beg from dawn until dusk from tourists visiting the sites of India.
5. Fierce Resistance from Raju’s Owner
Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan scoped out Raju’s location for 2 days and in the middle of the night, his team moved forward. They encountered opposition from the owner.
At first, the owner tried to provoke Raju to terrify him so that he would fight his rescuers. When this didn’t work, the owner wrapped more chains around Raju’s legs that cut even deeper into this flesh.
Luckily, Satyanarayan used chain cutters to remove the chains, but now, they needed Raju to walk to the rescue truck. Even with the pain in his legs, Raju forced himself to do it.
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.
6. Raju’s Tears of Joy
Once rescued, the team transported Raju back to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura. The centre’s other elephants came out to greet their newest member. Workers removed the last of Raju’s shackles and after 50 years, Raju took his first steps of freedom, crying tears of joy in the process.
The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed.
But for the moment he’s tasting freedom for the first time in his life and he’ll spend the rest of his life in a safe compound living out his days in dignity, free from suffering and pain.
But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like and what it’s like to not suffer any more.
We’re overjoyed by the brave rescue of Raju the Elephant. Can we share this post to animal lovers and let the world know about his story? If we do so, it can inspire many others to act also.