The moving video made international headlines and struck a chord with viewers around the world.
A few years back, a mistreated elephant made international headlines with his emotional reaction to being free for the first time in 50 years. The elephant, named Raju, was rescued after being chained and abused for five long decades. The rescuers who discovered Raju in captivity said that they first saw his tears as “gushes of liquid” poured down both of his cheeks. People who were there said he appeared to be in an enormous amount of pain. “It was a very emotional moment for us, because we’ve never seen an elephant cry like that,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS. “He was weeping.”
The extremely emotional rescue occurred on July 4, 2014, in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh state, India.
The rescue was a massive undertaking. It involved a team of 10 wildlife experts and 30 enforcement officers over the course of 8 hours to free the severely malnourished elephant. His owner had been keeping him illegally and using him as a tool for begging and making money. The shackles around his legs were chained so tightly, the elephant cried again when they were removed – this time, out of happiness. “I don’t know how scientific this is, but it seemed like he understood that we were there to help him,” Satyanarayan explained.
There has been no scientific evidence that elephants can actually cry, however, experts can confirm that they are very emotional creatures.
Since Raju was rescued in 2014, he’s been happily living at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Churmura. He has his own large enclosure where he can roam around freely and has since gained weight and healed from his wounds. He now has round-the-clock access to food, medical care, and even a pool! “The past five years with Raju has been an incredible journey for all of us,” Satyanarayan says. “His determination to get better has accelerated his recovery to an extent that nobody was sure, was possible.”
After Raju’s rescue, many people were awakened to the world of animal cruelty that existed on the planet.
“Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the amount of pain and loneliness he endured for so many years,” she continued.
“Watching Raju enjoy his retirement in peace fills our heart with happiness and keeps us motivated to help other elephants that continue to be treated with such cruelty, as he was.”
Since 2011, SOS Wildlife has rescued more than a dozen elephants beings tortured in illegal captivity in India. They estimate there are more than 3,000 of them being held in abusive environments. The biggest challenge SOS Wildlife says is changing people’s mindsets about animals.
Centuries-long ‘traditions’ have been justified for cruelty to elephants.
“It is ironic that Indians worship the elephant god, the monkey god … but when it comes to protecting animals, the majority don’t understand,” Satyanarayan explained.
Raju’s vet, Dr. Yaduraj Khadpeka, said he had never seen anything quite as terrible as the poor’s elephant’s condition. The spiked chains dug into his feet, he had abscesses and scars and was very malnourished. Removing the chains that day was extremely symbolic. “For us, it meant that we had this great opportunity and responsibility to give Raju a second chance at a life of freedom,” Khadpeka said. “For Raju, it was a symbolic moment that represented him stepping into a kinder life.”
Learn more about Raju’s incredible rescue in the video below.