ALLAHABAD, India — For 50 years, Raju the elephant was abused — but that all changed last week after he was rescued by wildlife conservationists.
Raju is about 50 years old and was likely captured as a baby. He was bought and sold many times over the course of his life. Raju was forced to work with his legs bound in spiked chains which has left him with chronic wounds. He was also beaten by his captors.
The conservationist group, Wildlife SOS, was established in 1995 to protect endangered wildlife in India. They set out to rescue Raju on the night of July 2. Raju’s captor apparently tried to dismantle the effort with a standoff, according to sources. The captor layered tight chains on Raju and attempted to confuse him by yelling commands however, the efforts proved to be useless.
Ten veterinarians and Wildlife SOS officials, along with 20 Forestry Commission officers and two policemen, assisted in the effort to rescue Raju, according to Mirror, a British tabloid.
“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," Pooja Binepal, a spokesman for Wildlife SOS, said. "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."
After Raju’s rescue, he was taken to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura, India. Wildlife SOS is now helping Raju rehabilitate his wounds and to become comfortable in his new life while introducing him to other elephants at the center, according to the organization.
Elephants have a life expectancy of about 70 years. Wildlife SOS hopes that Raju has another 10 years ahead of him.