On July 4, the incredible rescue of Raju the elephant finally saved from 50 years of chains, torture and misery happened at midnight as ten veterinarians, wildlife experts from the Wildlife SOS.org., officers from the Forestry Department, and six policemen helped to free the elephant from Uttar Pradesh and brought him to a sanctuary in northern India.
On Monday, according to the The Telegraph of New Delhi, India, Raju's former "mahouts" or handlers have filed a legal petition for the return of the elephant claiming Raju is their personal property.
Kartick Satyanarayan, of Wildlife SOS. org. promises to vehemently contest the petition stating:
"We have a foolproof case against the self-proclaiming owner including that he has no ownership documents. Moreover the treatment the elephant received was against the law.... we will pray for Raju's freedom."
It is estimated that Raju had been possessed by 27 different owners and had been made to give children elephant rides, performed at elite weddings, played elephant polo and used as tourists riding attractions. When rescued, the elephant had to be freed from heavy chains and illegal spikes used as part of the elephant's training to completely break their spirit and make them subservient.
Raju now lives at a sanctuary in Mathura located in Northern India. He lives with five other female rescues, and all of the elephants are affectionately referred to as the "Herd of Hope" which is symbolic for so many more elephants living in egregious conditions who hopefully can also be rescued.
When Raju was rescued in the midnight raid and loaded onto a truck to make his journey to freedom, volunteers recorded what they have referred to as tears of happiness rolling down the elephant's face. He now spends lots of time relaxing, eating, cajoling with his elephant friends and relaxing his maimed legs and feet in a special elephant pool.
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