For 50 long years, Raju the elephant lived a life of slavery. No one knew about its past, but it was taken away from its mother and separated from the herd when it was very young. It was sold and resold by 27 different owners as if it were just a commodity, eventually ending up at a zoo in Uttar Pradesh, India.
To make Raju obey commands, the cruel owners would chain and brutally beat it until it completely surrendered, trembling in fear at the sound of its owner’s voice. At night, it had no place to sleep, and during the day, it was used as a spectacle to beg for money from visiting tourists.
Raju endured a life of pain and hunger, sometimes eating candy wrappers and plastic due to extreme hunger. Its tail was even plucked of its hair to be sold as a lucky charm.
Chained with spiked shackles 24/7, its feet were injured and ulcerated, causing blood and pus to ooze from the wounds every time it moved. Raju’s life was filled with pain and loneliness.
Learning about Raju’s heartbreaking circumstances, a wildlife rescue organization from London was determined to fly to India and free it.
A team of 10 veterinarians and wildlife experts, along with 20 forest department staff and 6 police officers, conducted the daring rescue mission, infiltrating the zoo at night to avoid public attention and protect the elephant from the scorching sun.
However, the rescue faced intense resistance from Raju’s owner. He ordered Raju to become aggressive, and when the elephant was too scared to attack the rescuers, the owner used more spiked chains to bind it, causing even more excruciating pain.
Undeterred, the rescue team managed to subdue the owner and take the elephant away. Witnessing this scene, Raju began shedding tears uncontrollably. Perhaps it sensed that it was about to be free from the clutches of its cruel owner. It was a deeply emotional sight, showing that animals feel pain and emotions just like humans.
Raju was loaded onto a truck and taken to safety, far away from its tormentor. The rescue team decided to transport the elephant with all the chains still attached to its feet. Each step caused unimaginable pain, but Raju bravely followed their instructions, knowing that they were trying to save it. It was taken to a wildlife conservation center in Mathura, over 560km away.
There, Raju was treated to a sumptuous feast, including bananas, banana leaves, mangoes, bread, biscuits, and clean water, before the chains were removed. It took 45 minutes to carefully remove all the chains embedded in the wounds on Raju’s legs. Once the last chain was cut off, Raju stood up and took hesitant steps. It was the first time in 50 years that it experienced absolute freedom.
In the days that followed, Raju was bathed, cared for, and nursed back to health. It was introduced to its new friends, other elephants who had also been rescued from the hands of cruel humans.
Raju had to learn many new things, such as making friends, getting acquainted with female elephants, learning how to eat and play, interacting gently with its caregivers, and learning to forget the pain and enjoy its newfound freedom.
That was the story from five years ago. Today, Raju continues to live happily and healthily in its sanctuary. It recently celebrated its fourth year of freedom on July 4th, 2018, with a party filled with toys, treats, fun activities, and friends.
Raju munched on popcorn and blinked its eyes leisurely, savoring the moment. No one could recognize the once emaciated and desperate elephant that was brought to the sanctuary