According to reports issued on July 7, 2014, while the United States celebrated their independence on July 4th, over 8,000 miles away in India a male elephant was crying tears of joy as he experienced his first taste of freedom. Raju, a male elephant believed to have been taken from his mother over 50 years ago, has spent his entire life in captivity, chained and beaten by an estimated 27 owners. As Raju suffered in silence, the organization Wildlife SOS-UK prepared to complete a plan to rescue him from his captors that started a year ago.
Joined by the Forestry Commission and two local policemen, the rescuers raided a farm located in the Uttar Pradesh region and liberated Raju from a half century of torment. According to Pooja Binepal of the Wildlife SOS-UK:
"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.”
Team members believe that Raju was overcome with happiness as he came to realize that he was being freed.
Elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth and can weigh as much as eight tons. There are two distinct populations of elephants; namely the African elephant and the Asian elephant. According to an article published in Scientific American, evidence exists that “elephants are some of the most intelligent, social and empathic animals around.”
World leaders agree that if policies are not put in place and enforced to protect the elephant from human interference, the elephant may become extinct. Currently, despite the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ban on the international trade of ivory, poaching remains the number one threat to all elephants’ survival.
Raju was sedated and brought to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura. “There, Raju took his first steps to freedom at 12.01 a.m. July 4 — America's Independence Day.” He will be kept in an isolated pen for about a week while veterinarians and wildlife experts provide him with much needed medical care. You can click onto this link to view a picture gallery of his rescue.
Officials are also trying to raise money so Raju will be able to spend the rest of his life free at the conservation center. If you would like to keep updated on Raju’s story and donate to help keep him free, please visit the Wildlife SOS-India website.