Captured and then tortured for 50 years, Raju the elephant cried tears of joy following his rescue from his abusive owner.
After 50 years of shackles and abuse, the picture and story of Raju the elephant shedding tears during his rescue went viral. According to CNN, his rescuers reported “gushes of liquid” pouring from the elephants’ eyes. The rescuers said what looked like tears poured down both of the elephant’s cheeks and he looked like he was in a great deal of pain.
“It was a very emotional moment for us, because we’ve never seen an elephant cry like that,” says Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS. “He was weeping.”
Rescuers saved Raju the elephant a little more than three years ago.
Rescuers saved the elephant from his abusive owner in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh state, on July 4, 2014. Published a few days later, both images and videos of the rescue quickly went viral.
Even with a team of 30 enforcement officers and 10 wildlife experts, the rescue took eight hours. Malnourished and in pain, Raju the elephant was eventually free.
According to Satyanarayan, the abusive owner laced the shackles with spikes. He noted the shackles were so tight that the elephant cried after the rescue team unchained him. This time, however, everyone believed the tears were tears of joy – tears of relief. Finally, after five decades of torture, five decades of shackles, and five decades of chains, Raju the elephant was free.
“I don’t know how scientific this is, but it seemed like he understood that we were there to help him.”
Raju suffered at the hands of several abusive owners shortly after birth.
While no one knows if elephants are capable of crying, they are emotional creatures. Unfortunately, animal rights and cruelty in India goes far beyond the story of Raju the elephant.
The rescuers believe poachers captured Raju shortly after birth and sold him repeatedly. Rescuers speculate that as many as 20 to 30 people owned Raju before his rescue. Owners severely beat Raju and used weapons to hurt him. One even used a spear on Raju. Some of the wounds and weapons looked like something out of a torture chamber, according to the rescuers.
Geeta Seshamani, another co-founder of Wildlife SOS, noted the owners used these weapons of torture as a means of teaching the elephant who is in charge. Owners taught Raju to obey through beatings and starvation.
Saving these creatures is a slow but steady process.
Since 2011, Wildlife SOS had a hand in rescuing more than 10 elephants facing the same fate and torture as Raju. While commercially trading elephants in India is illegal, it is still a major problem. Wildlife SOS also had a hand in rescuing thousands of captive monkeys, leopards, and bears. However, the group estimates that over 3,000 elephants still need to be rescued.
Tradition is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of putting an end to this problem. Trading and selling elephants is a tradition in India, which prevents many from seeing how it is wrong or cruel. Seshamani notes the situation is a little ironic.
“It is ironic that Indians worship the elephant god, the monkey god … but when it comes to protecting animals, the majority don’t understand.”
To date, Raju is safe and recovering with other rescued elephants. According to Wildlife SOS’s blog, Raju is riddled with scars and had weak limbs from malnutrition. Gaining more than 1,000 kilos (2,200 pounds) under the group’s care, Raju is a much happier and healthier elephant. Raju continues to receive the best care at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura.
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By Cedric Jackson | Shareably