The only life an elephant named Raju ever knew consisted of spiked shackles and begging tourists for handouts while eating little more than paper and plastic. When North London-based charity Wildlife SOS heard about Raju's condition, they decided to make the trip to India to save him...right away.
Raju's conditions were reported to the charity by onlookers. Every day, Raju's owners forced to hold out his trunk and beg for coins from local tourists. They fed him nothing but sweets and garbage, which often included inedible materials like paper and plastic.
The first step of Raju's rescue involved removing the dangerous spiked chains from Raju's legs.
According to Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan, "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."
The rescue came roughly one year after the charity was alerted to Raju's plight by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in India. Not surprisingly, Raju's owner had no legal documents proving that he was the rightful owner of the elephant, so the charity was able to seize him. No one knows how Raju wound up living under such dreadful conditions, but the charity believes he was poached from his mom as a young calf.
Rescuers feared Raju would react with fear, perhaps attacking humans who were trying to help him, when he was at last released from bondage, but just the opposite happened. Reportedly, Raju the elephant cried tears of joy as he was released from spiked shackles in the Uttar Pradesh area of India after fifty long years of torture. Elephants are typically referred to as majestic, but they're also 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.
It took three professionals over 45 minutes to liberate him as they'd been wound round his legs to prevent their removal and to cause pain if anyone tried to take them off.
Once freed, he was loaded into an elephant-friendly van and driven 350 miles away from his evil owner to the charity's Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura.
Another shot of Raju on his journey to a better life!
Once he arrived at the reserve, a good bath was in order.
His nails were severely overgrown, he had abscesses and wounds because of the shackles and repeated walking on a tarmac road has led to his foot pad overgrowing.
Thanks to the Wildlife SOS efforts, Raju received emergency medical attention to his wounds as well as a proper bath and food.
The charity has now launched a campaign to raise £10,000 to help Raju begin the start of his new life in a new enclosure which will allow him to roam with his adoptive family.
Right now, Raju is getting his first taste of freedom in his entire life. He'll live out the rest of his life in a safe compound, free of chains, with his dignity in tact...all thanks to a team of determined rescue workers who made saving this majestic beast their midnight mission!