(NaturalNews) When a team of 10 veterinarians and experts from Wildlife SOS along with 20 Forestry Commission officers arrived to free Raju the elephant, they found him in the most cruel and intolerable conditions. The 50-year-old elephant was shackled like a prisoner, bound in spiked chains. As the rescuers narrowed in, Raju's owner was not ready to give up control, so he layered tighter chains on "his" elephant and started shouting loud commands to confuse Raju.
Night time rescue frees elephant from 50 years of abuse
The rescue occurred in the middle of the night, with more than 30 rescuers, including six police officers involved. As they moved in, the situation became emotional, as they heard, felt, and saw the pain in the imprisoned elephant.
The captors braced for a standoff, tightening the chains of their prisoner. The captor's efforts were futile as the rescuers moved in with authority, pushing the captors back and breaking the chains that were bound tight in blood around Raju's ankles.
In that moment, 50 years of brutal imprisonment ended as the shackles were released. A flood of tears immediately ran down the face of Raju the elephant. The wildlife conservationists said the animal cried as soon as he was set free, a rush of tears pouring down.
"Raju was 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," said Pooja Binepal, a spokesman for Wildlife SOS. "It was incredibly emotional. We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed. Elephants are majestic and highly intelligent animals. We can only imagine what torture the past half a century has been for him."
Wildlife SOS, a heroic group
Wildlife SOS is a group of wildlife conservationists whose mission is to protect endangered wildlife in India. The group was established in 1995. On July 2, 2014, the group dispatched 10 veterinarians and experts to free Raju, who had been used as a begging elephant in Allahabad for 50 years. For half a century, Raju had been sold several times, used, beaten, and chained up.
India's Forestry Commission alerted Wildlife SOS about the abusive conditions Raju the elephant was enduring in the Uttar Pradesh region of India. After the rescue, Wildlife SOS transported the five-and-a-half ton elephant 350 miles away to a safe conservation area, the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura.
According to reports, Raju was ridden through villages and forced to hold out his trunk to collect coins. Raju could be seen decorated with paints. He fed off of paper and plastic scraps while walking in spiked chains that cut into his flesh.
Wildlife SOS's Pooja Binepal remembers vividly, "[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."
She continued, "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 are the time of the rescue, said .... that really caught him off guard. They've done a lot of elephant rescues and the fact the the 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."