Raju the elephant has endured 50 years in captivity, living in chains for nearly every moment of it. Last week, Wildlife SOS intervened and liberated Raju, and for the first time, he was free. It was a kind act, but the most incredible part?
When Raju became aware that the humans were there to help him, he began to shed tears.
The toll on Raju’s health over those decades of captivity were clear. He had scars from years of physical abuse, his body showed signs of chronic malnutrition, his shackles left wounds on his feet, and the emotional toll was great – hard to fully understand.
“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,” said Pooja Binepal of Wildlife SOS told the Mirror.
“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.”
They can’t say for sure, but Wildlife SOS believes that Raju was probably taken from his mother 50 years ago. After his rescue, he was placed under the care of veterinarians, then he was transported another 350 miles to Wildlife SOS’s Elephant Conservation and Care Center. It is there that Raju will begin to heal.
“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.”