Elephants Never Forget

Incredible moment elephant cries during rescue mission

Things are looking up for Raju now! (Press People)

Raju is a 50-year-old Indian elephant held in captivity for most of his life by as many as 27 different owners. And his life was one of pain, cruelty and servitude. His most recent owners used him as a “beggar’s prop” to entertain tourists, who often fed him scraps as one of his only means of sustenance. Owners would also pull hair from his tail to give visitors as souvenirs.

It was a terrible life, in other words, but one that was about to change for the better.

On the night of July 2, members of Wildlife SOS—a group devoted to protecting endangered animal species—set out to rescue Raju, whose captors kept his feet bound with spiked chains to prevent him from being liberated. A team of veterinarians and wildlife experts, along with police and officers from the Forestry Commission, raided the farm in the Uttar Pradesh region of India and, fortunately, were able to both sedate and save the majestic beast.

And if you think Raju wasn’t grateful, think again.

Press People Raju the elephant with wildlife sos head vet Dr Yaduraj Khadpekar as he is freeing  him

Raju is freed from his chains (Press People)

“The [rescue team] went in to rescue him and [his captors] had bound him up so tightly that he was in a lot of pain,” Wildlife SOS-USA executive director Nikki Sharp said after the late-night operation. “The vet and our team came with fruits and just started speaking softly to him and to reassure him that we were there to help, and it was at that time that tears flooded down his face. The founder of Wildlife SOS, who was there at the time of the rescue, said that really caught him off guard. They’ve done a lot of elephant rescues and the fact that tears were just coming down… he was weeping. It was an emotional moment and everyone was more motivated to get him on the truck and to safety.”

Raju was transported to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, where his shackles were finally removed. And on July 4, while Americans were celebrating their independence, Raju took his first steps of freedom. Sharp says he is doing “fabulously,” being treated and rehabilitated, and will soon be introduced to other elephants at the facility.

Tell me this isn’t one of the most heartwarming stories you’ve ever heard. And to anyone who believes that animals don’t have feelings or shouldn’t be treated with respect, I hope stories like this finally convince you that all living things deserve our kindness and protection—and appreciate when we allow them the same happiness we seek for ourselves in life.

You go, Raju!

Posted on July 11, 2014, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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