Elephants are the center of most circus acts and a main attraction at many zoos. Who doesn’t enjoy a ride on one of these majestic creatures? They are known for their friendly personalities and are the gentle giants many of us have grown up adoring. However, not all of these majestic creatures are treated the way they should be.
Many are used in India as part of the tourism industry, but not cared for and treated the way they should be. They suffer daily abuse and are often starved and over worked from dawn to dusk in the blazing sun. This story is a tale of Raju, an elephant illegally captured as a baby calf and abused by his barbaric captives.
After five decades of abuse and starvation, Raju would Raju ever find relief or would he be doomed to live a life of cruel slavery for the rest of his life?
To learn more about Raju’s story, click ‘Start Slideshow‘ to begin.
The Captured Giant
Poor Raju was stolen from his elephant family as just a baby. A poacher from India stole the baby elephant from the wild with the intent to sell him in a market to other humans. These were humans who treated animals as they pleased, and rarely in a manner in which most of us would find acceptable.
Poaching is a common practice in India and as many as 100 elephants have been lost, either through death or in to human trade, over the past two years. Although this practice may sound inhumane to most of us, it’s common practice in the tourism and entertainment industries of India.
Elephant abuse is a common practice in India. Why you ask? Keep reading to find out.
The case of Raju was no exception. He was pushed into captivity and sold to a cruel master in Uttar Pradesh, India. Chained and abused since captivity, he was passed on to multiple owners after that, each treating him worse than those before. Raju was used to earn money for his barbaric captives who used him for public shows and nothing more than profit.
Animal cruelty, particularly elephant cruelty, is a common, public practice. They are often used for entertainment purposes for the public. Most people witnessing the shows, or taking those beloved elephant rides, know nothing about the cruel practices that take place behind the scenes.
Just imagine being taken from your family as a baby. What if you were the mother? Click ‘Next’ for more.
The Abusive Treatment Continues
Raju was born a free animal in the wild and was meant to live a full life, free of captivity and cruelty, but his days in the wild were limited. His last human owner was drug addicted and abusive to his wife and children, but the abuse didn’t stop there.
The terrible owner abused all of his animals, including Raju. Poor Raju underwent horrific abuse for 50 years before animal rights activists stepped in to make a rescue attempt.
Raju was passed on from owner to owner. How many owners is Raju believed to have had? Keep reading!
Rescuers said it is known that Raju was poached as a young calf and handed off to as many as 27 different owners over the time of his captivity. He was helpless against the multitude of cruel masters who abused him for use in the tourism industry. He would walk for miles on concrete and rocks without food or water and made to perform tricks and give rides.
Animal poaching in India is a dangerous tradition that results in most of the mothers of the poached babies being killed or placed into dangerously small traps that often result in their deaths. The mothers spend days crying desperately for the return of their babies, and Raju’s mother was likely placed in a similar situation.
Raju was considered a spiritual being. How did his owner cash in on that? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Abusive Treatment Puts Raju’s Life in Danger
As if walking miles on rough terrain wasn’t enough, he had chains placed around his feet making it painful to walk. The chains had spikes that cut into his skin that caused him to bleed with each step.
Raju would be taken to religious sanctuaries because in India elephants are considered spiritual beings. People would throw coins towards Raju to be given his blessing and the coins would be gathered by his master. In truth, Raju needed a blessing himself.
Human abuse was all Raju had ever known. What kinds of abuse did he suffer? Read on to find out.
With his wounds left untended, Raju was susceptible to infections, and his cruel owner used none of his earnings to give Raju proper medical treatment. Raju was never fed a proper diet, either. Most of what he survived on was junk thrown to him by tourists. He even went so far as to eat plastic and paper containers in his efforts to survive.
Poor Raju had developed a painful foot injury from the wear and tear on his feet. If he had become ill and unable to walk, he likely would have been left to die on the side of the road as he would no longer have been of any use to his owner. Yet poor Raju struggled on, determined to live.
Although abused his entire life, you’ll never believe how Raju reacted. Click on ‘Next’ to continue the story.
Raju Never Harmed His Captors
Poor Raju’s body was covered in cuts, scars, and bruises; proof of the horrible cruelty he suffered on a daily basis. His nails were untrimmed and cutting into his already damaged feet causing them to bleed, and he was extremely malnourished.
SOS Wildlife, a charity organization based out of London, stepped in to attempt a daring rescue. At this point, Raju was so weak and in such poor condition he wouldn’t be able to live much longer, they were afraid.
Raju didn’t have a tuft of hair on the end of his tail. Why you ask? Keep reading to find out.
Raju had no shelter to protect him at night and was forced to work in the scorching sun from sun up to sun down. He had abscessed wounds on his feet that oozed infection with each step he took. Pain caused by human brutality was all he had ever known. The chains he had grown up with had kept the majestic creature in captivity his entire life.
Although he had been badly abused and tortured for decades, Raju never tried to harm his masters or any of the people he was forced to entertain. However, Raju had known nothing more than a pitiful existence and had likely lost all hope and respect for humanity. His owner even pulled the hair from his tail and sold it as a good luck charm.
Elephants are more like humans than you probably think. How? Click ‘Next’ and keep reading to find out.
Someone Finally Notices Raju Is Being Mistreated
Elephants are known for their intelligence and are believed to feel pain just as humans do. Treating a passionate, intelligent creature the way Raju had been treated for five decades seems unimaginable for most people.
Luckily, Raju’s pleas for help did not go unnoticed. An animal loving man saw the physical abuse the animal suffered during a performance and became concerned for Raju’s well-being. He contacted the SOS Wildlife organization who quickly began planning their rescue efforts.
Why did the court become involved in Raju’s rescue? They played an important role. Keep reading!
The organization knew it would not be an easy rescue, if nothing else because of the sheer size of the animal being rescued, but they knew it was one they must act quickly on if Raju had any chance for survival.
The organization set up a meeting with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and began discussions for a rescue mission. The rescuers knew they would need legal assistance to be able to legally remove Raju from his owner. They appealed to the court explaining they didn’t have much time because Raju’s health was deteriorating rapidly.
Why did the court approve the removal of Raju from his abusive owner? Click ‘Next’ to find out the answer!
Rescue Efforts Begin
The rescue organization made it clear they wanted to take Raju from his abusive captor and torturous environment and move him to an elephant sanctuary so he could receive proper care and medical attention.
Because Raju’s owner had no legal ownership documents showing proof he could keep the animal, the court issued an order allowing the rescuers to remove the majestic animal from his abusive situation. The next step was to plan the actual removal of Raju from his abusive captor.
How many people does it take to rescue an elephant? Likely more than you think. Keep reading to find out!
The wildlife team, led by Kartick Satyanarayan, carried out a surveillance of Raju’s environment for two days to help determine the best strategy for rescuing the elephant. They knew his captor would not let the team have the creature willingly or without a fight.
The team, consisting of 10 veterinarians, six policemen, and 20 members of the forestry department made their first rescue attempt in the evening shortly after obtaining the court order. Despite the large size of the team, Raju’s owner and the people in his village stopped the team from completing the rescue mission.
How many rescue attempts did it take to free Raju? Make sure to keep clicking ‘Next!’
The Team Fights to Free Raju
On a Thursday in July of 2014, the team started their second rescue mission, and determined not to leave without Raju, they hired a huge trolley that would transport him back to the sanctuary. Upon reaching the village, the team was refused entrance to the village by the villagers. After hours of protesting, police threatened to take the villagers into custody if the team wasn’t allowed entrance. Finally, the team was allowed entrance and able to begin the rescue attempt.
The team began the process of rescuing Raju in the middle of the night. The plan was to start at night so Raju would not have to endure the heat of the daylight during the long trip back to the sanctuary. When the team reached Raju’s location, his owner was already there and began taunting the elephant in an effort to aggravate him. He knew that if the elephant was angry it would make the rescue much more difficult, if not impossible. However, the owner’s threats meant nothing to the team, and the animal stood still, too afraid to move.
What unexpected thing did Raju do while being rescued? Keep reading to find out the answer!
The rescue team was extremely emotional and had never seen the condition of an elephant so dire. Many of the rescuers cried throughout the rescue process, but what they didn’t expect, was that Raju would cry too. As the team began trying to release the chains from his legs, Raju had tears rolling down his cheeks.
It seemed as if the animal was thanking the team for their rescue efforts and knew he was possibly on his way to freedom. The team believed that part of Raju’s tears was due to the pain being inflicted during the removal process, but also because he finally began to feel hope and sense that a change was coming.
How did the team calm Raju and coax him to load into the trolley? Click ‘Next’ to find out.
On the Road to Freedom
The chains that had been on Raju’s feet so long had damaged his legs and the vets were afraid he wouldn’t be able to load onto the trailer. In addition to being weak and in pain, he was extremely scared. The team coaxed Raju up by stroking his trunk and feeding him fresh fruit for several hours.
The truck that would transport Raju was brought as close as possible to Raju’s location. Because the chains had been in place so long, they were extremely difficult to remove and were costing the team valuable time. The decision was made to leave the chains in place until Raju had been taken to a safe environment.
How many miles did Raju have to ride to reach the sanctuary? Keep reading to find out the answer.
With encouragement from the team, Raju finally took steps to load into the trolley. Was the majestic animal really on his way to freedom? He was given sedation to stay calm and relaxed throughout the next step of his journey.
Raju rode 350 miles to Mathura, the location of the elephant sanctuary that could nurse him back to health. Miraculously enough, on July 4th, a date fitting of the occasion, Raju took his first step out of the trolley and into the sanctuary; his first steps into freedom.
How did the other rescue elephants react when Raju reached the sanctuary? Keep clicking ‘Next.’
The First Steps to Freedom
Upon Raju’s arrival, the other elephants in the sanctuary must have sensed his presence. They gathered around the trolley to meet the new addition to their family. His final movement to freedom was an extraordinary accomplishment for both the team and Raju.
Once outside the trolley, for the first time in his adult life, Raju was given a healthy combination of bread, biscuits, and fruits. Frantic for food after starving for decades, he quickly finished all of his food and was happy to be full.
How long did it take the team to remove Raju’s chains? Keep reading to find out the painful answer.
After his first meal, the team began the tedious process of removing the chains. It took a doctor and two team members 45 minutes to remove them. The team felt they had been wound around his legs to prevent their removal and to cause pain to Raju if anyone ever tried to remove them.
Within a few months, Raju’s feet had healed completely and he was able to run and play with his new elephant family. He seemed to finally be happy to be surrounded by other elephants he could play with and humans who loved him and cared for him properly. But, will this new found freedom last?
Would Raju be returned to his abusive past? You surely hope not! Keep clicking ‘Next’ to find out.
Raju’s Freedom Threatened Yet Again
Unfortunately, Raju wasn’t at the sanctuary very long before his freedom was in danger yet again. Raju’s previous owner had filed a court complaint against the team for unlawfully stealing his possession from him.
This news was not good news for Raju or the wildlife team, who had fought so hard for his freedom. Raju had just started to become comfortable with his new found freedom and his wounds had all finally healed. He was becoming healthy the way he should have always been.
Did the court deny or approve Raju’s past owner’s request for his return? Keep reading to find out!
The previous owner demanded the organization return Raju, as well as compensate him for damages he claims he sustained to his livelihood. However, the court denied his request stating that he never had any proof of legal ownership of the animal to begin with.
Luckily, the abusive captor that had once been Raju’s owner had failed miserably at recapturing Raju. Finally, Raju had officially been set free.
Raju Will Soon Celebrate His 54th Birthday
Raju, now 53 years old, is a healthy, 11 feet tall elephant. He turned 53 on March 4th and will soon be celebrating yet another birthday in freedom. A party was held in his honor and the charity organization even presented him with a card.
The wildlife team reports that he is happier now than they’ve ever seen him. He consumes a healthy plant and fruit based diet and now weighs around 11,000 pounds, a healthy weight for an elephant his size.
How much did it cost to rescue and nurse Raju back to health? Keep reading to find out!
Nearly all of Raju’s wounds have healed, except for his right leg which still experiences frequent swelling making it difficult for him to put his full weight on. The swelling, however, doesn’t seem to slow him down or prevent him from enjoying his new found freedom.
Over $50,000 has been spent on Raju’s treatment and the charity organization plans to continue to rescue elephants and coax them back to health. Raju’s rescue and recovery has encouraged the organization to continue their efforts.
Raju’s rescue and recovery has encouraged the organization to continue their efforts. Click “Next”.
Raju’s Happily Ever After
A star at the sanctuary, Raju can often be seen playing with his toys, strolling with his new elephant family, or splashing in the pool. Raju lives at the sanctuary with 14 other elephants, all of who are rescue elephants.
He certainly enjoys his freedom according to the sanctuary staff. Even with all of the hardship he has endured in his life time, he is still a friendly, gentle giant who appears to hold no grudge against his past.
How many elephants are still being forced to perform in India? Keep reading to find out!
The organization says there are as many as 67 elephants still performing in India in the tourism and entertainment industry. Unfortunately, most of them are likely suffering the same abuse that Raju suffered.
The organization has been overwhelmed by generosity of people from around the world. Due in part to these donations, the team is already planning their next rescue. They hope to rescue many more elephants so they no longer have to live in suffering and pain.