For the last 50 years, Raju the elephant has had to endure many various forms of physical and mental abuse that included living in chains 24/7.  Despite the long years of pain and suffering, when Raju became aware that he was finally being rescued, he couldn’t contain his emotions any longer and began to weep in relief.
Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like to be forced to live in confinement every single day, enduring rusty spiked shackles clasped tightly around your feet, and to top it all off being treated as if you are property, rather than the feeling and thinking being?  
That was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the experiences that Raju the elephant had to endure for the past 50 years of life, until one fateful day earlier this summer when he was given back the one thing that every single being has the right to: Freedom.
For almost five decades, Raju was forced to walk the dust filled roads of India, forced to interact with tourists for coins and money.  When he was finally rescued his poor body bore the horrible signs of scars from physical abuse and malnutrition.  Yet the emotional toll that Raju had to endure was no less severe.
From Wildlife SOS, Pooja Binepal had this to comment on the situation, “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. 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.”
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A team led by the UK-based animal charity group called Wildlife SOS were able to step in and intervene to help liberate Raju from his cruel and unloved existence in back in July.  When it became all too clear to the aging Raju that the team was there to rescue him, he began to weep heavily.
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Pooja also shared another one of his comments, saying “Raju was in chains 24 hours a day, an act of ­intolerable cruelty. The team was astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. 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.”
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After Raju’s unfortunate situation was first brought to light, the rescue to place just one year later, after the legal process had begun in conjunction with local authorities to have Raju rescue and taken away from his keeper.  The team that rescued Raju had worked tirelessly all through the night to make sure they removed all the sharp shackles that bound Raju to the ground.
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Once  they were able to free Raju from his confinement, he was then relocated 350 miles way to Wildlifes SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Center at Mathura, where Raju was able to receive much needed medical attention and rehabilitation before becoming friends with the other rescued elephants that now called this wonderful sanctuary home.
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The rescuers of Raju believed that when he was younger, he had been abducted from his mother in the wild some 50 plus years ago and had been forced to suffer so much mistreatment at the hands of multiple owners ever since.
 Luckily Raju’s life is now drastically different and is able to go through his days in happiness and peace.
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“Until we stepped in he’d never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles,” says Binepal. “But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like.”
To donate toward Raju’s care, contributions can be made at wildlifesos.org.
Image Credit: Wildlife SOS