The tears of the elephant freed after 50 years in chains

After 50 years in chains living on handouts, the elephant Raju was freed and driven to a conservation area by Wildlife SOS’ volunteers.

This story can dismantle the barriers and the differences among species, no matter what species we belong to, we are born to be free and a life in chains is one of the cruellest punishments ever. This is Raju’s story, an Indian elephant type specimen that was held in chains for over fifty years of his life, exploited by his owner to beg for a few coins in the streets of India.


Raju was rescued by Wildlife SOS, an organisation for animal protection based in India and London. When the volunteers took off the shackles from the animal’s legs, something extraordinary happened: big tears rolled down the elephant’s face, the majestic animal cried for winning back his freedom. According to reconstructions, Raju was poached from his mother, herd and jungle as a young calf and in the last half-century had had 27 owners who used him to ask handouts and trained him to pick up the tourists’ coins with his trunk.


Without the help of Wildlife SOS India’s volunteers Raju would still drag himself around because of the heavy chains with spikes he had to bear and would live on the garbage found on the roads, until his body would surrender to this pitiless torture. «Raju has spent in chains 24 hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty – declared Pooja Binepal, the spokeperson of Wildlife SOS UK rescue team – 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 realised he was being freed. Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals. We can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him. Until we stepped in he’d never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles. But today he knows what freedom is».


Once Raju was freed from the chains, it took 45 minutes for the team to drive him to a safe conservation area near New Delhi. Vets are taking care of him, feeding him and trying to rehabilitate his body that was tortured by blows and chains and was in a state of hunger. After recovering from his wounds, Raju will enjoy his counterparts’ company; actually, he will join the rest of the elephants of the area that have experienced human cruelty like him and share with them his horrible experiences and raise his trunk to the sky, finally free.

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