Raju the elephant was left bleeding from spiked shackles and living on hand-outs from passing tourists after he was captured and tied up by his “owner”.
But, after 50 years of torture, the animal cried tears of relief after he was rescued by a wildlife charity in a daring midnight operation — on July 4, Independence Day.
One of the rescuers said: “The chains around his legs had spikes which were cutting into his flesh — and each time he moved puss would ooze out of wounds. Pain and brutality were all he knew”.
A rescuer said: “His cruel handler even tore out the hair from his tail to sell as good luck charms. The exploitation and abuse just had to stop”.
A team of ten vets and wildlife experts from Wildlife SOS were joined by 20 officers of the forestry department and six policemen to release Raju from his suffering in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The operation took place under the cover of darkness and Pooja Binepal, the Wildlife SOS’s UK spokesman, described it as “incredibly emotional” for the team.
“Raju has spent the past 50 years living a pitiful existence in chains 24 hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty”.
“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 realized he was being freed”.
The rescuer said: “Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals, who have been proven to have feelings of grief, so we can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him”.
Here is Raju after his rescue — he is recovering as well as could be expected.