Court Rules Enslaved Elephant Will Remain Free With Charity That Saved Him

▪ Elephant was enslaved for over 50 years and sold to various owners like property
▪ Named "Raju", he was forced to wear spike shackles so he couldn't escape
▪ Cruel owners forced Raju to beg strangers for coins in exchange for scraps of food

Raju is seen here in the shackles and chains that he was forced to wear every single night of his life. Volunteers from Wildlife SOS launched a daring night-time rescue operation to save him. The 30-man rescue team consisted of veterinarians, wildlife experts, forestry department officers, and local policemen. Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

Mathura, India — The horrific story of Raju the elephant finally has a happy ending after he was finally declared free from his abusive owners.

For more than 50 years Raju was housed in disciple conditions and treated with little care, including being tied to spiked shackles that caused him to bleed as well as receiving continual beatings from his owners in India.

The night Raju was saved by his rescuers…

1Close-up of the shackles and chains that Raju’s owners put on him every night

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

2Wildlife SOS chief veterinarian Dr Yaduraj Khadpekar examines the spiked shackles

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

3Examining the abscesses and cuts caused by the spikes

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

4Shortly after Raju was freed from his shackles. Free at last!

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

Having been tied up by his cruel owners, Raju would beg for scraps while being forced to hold out his trunk to beg for coins from passersby in the Uttar Pradesh region of India.

Raju was being held by his owners in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. Credit: Google Maps

Thankfully he would be rescued in July of this year after the disgusting treatment of the elephant was discovered by a wildlife charity organization. This led to a collective group of charity workers, vets, and police officers to mount a rescue operation where they confiscated Raju from his cruel owners.

Despite saving Raju and sending him to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in India where he would be treated with the utmost care, his future remained in doubt after his owners made an attempt to reclaim poor Raju.

Citing the fact that Raju was their rightful property”, his previous owners would begin legal proceedings to try and bring Raju back into their possession –- something that rightfully terrified his new caregivers from the British charity Wildlife SOS

Over the past month, Raju’s future well-being was hanging in the balance as the battle for ownership of the old elephant was fought in the Indian courts. However, the future is looking bright for Raju after it was announced that he would remain with his new caregivers at Wildlife SOS.

Their lawyers argued that no elephant can be owned by an individual under Indian law, as ownership of these majestic animals belongs to the Indian Government.

They also noted that only a license that has been issued from the Chief Wildlife Warden is proof of ownership –- something his previous owners’ legal team could not provide to the courts. As a result, the case was dismissed.

Now Raju is free to splash around in the open pools at his new home, where he is learning to trust again under the care of his new caregivers.

Kartick Satyanarayan, founder of Wildlife SOS, was ecstatic about the recent ruling.

In an official statement, he said,

“We are beyond overjoyed that Raju is finally saved. This is a huge victory, not only for Raju, but for every elephant suffering in pain silently. Elephants are majestic, intelligent animals, who are proven to grieve and feel emotion – so for an elephant to suffer for 50 years in chains, as Raju has, is truly barbaric.”

When his former owners launched a legal bid to get him back it was unthinkable that he could return to the life he’d had begging on the streets in shackles.

Satyanarayan continued,

“We were determined to fight for him to ensure he could live out his days free from beatings and harm and we’ve had many a sleepless night worrying about what the future held for him. He had been so terribly brutalized for 50 years that we feared he’d be unable to live with his own kind. He didn’t even know how to be an elephant. But now he’s joined our herd of rescued Indian elephants it’s like he’s always been with them.”

Executive director of Wildlife SOS was equally happy with the ruling and what it meant for Raju’s future.

As she explains:

“This meant that Raju was finally truly free and there is no chance he will be returned to the shackles that chained him for 50 years. It was completely outrageous to us that two months after we’d cut his chains his freedom was threatened. He had just started to settle into his new home with our charity, making friends and learning to trust people. It was too cruel to contemplate that this was under threat. Although we always hoped we would win this case because we all love Raju we couldn’t help but feel profound anxiety over what was happening. Now, finally his future is secure.”

Mr Satyanarayan also spoke of how Raju was likely poached as a calf, and how similar treatment befalls many other elephants.

“Like all of the elephants we have rescued, we believe Raju was poached from his mother as a young calf.’The poachers either slaughter the mother, or they drive the herd into traps that are small enough only for the babies to fall into. The mother cries for her baby for days after he’s been stolen – it is a sickening trade.’The calves are then tied and beaten until they submit to their owners – their spirits are effectively broken. Raju’s case was particularly tragic. He’d been poached as a calf and then he has been sold on and sold on. Incredibly we believe he has had up to 27 owners – he’s been treated as a commodity every two years of his life. By the time we found him in July 2013 he was in a pathetic condition. He had no shelter for him at night, and was being used as a prop to beg from dawn until dusk from tourists visiting the sites of India. He hadn’t been fed properly and tourists started giving him sweet food items and because he was in a state of hunger and exhaustion he began eating plastic and paper.’It took us 45 minutes to remove the shackles that had torn into the flesh on his legs for the past 50 years – and act of unthinkable cruelty. And it was when he was finally freed that tears gushed down his face. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.’His legs were so covered in abscesses and his feet so damaged by walking on hard tarmac roads, that we have spent £40,000 so far on his medical treatment, and we still have a long way to go as he has a serious limp and open wounds.’Pain and brutality were all he knew. His cruel handler even tore out the hair from his tail to sell as good luck charms. The exploitation and abuse just had to stop.”

The successful rescue of Raju has prompted the charity to launch a special Christmas campaign that aims to save the last remaining circus elephants in India, of which there are 67 still remaining. These elephants will hopefully become the newest members of the charity’s “herd of hope”.

As Mr Satyanarayan explains:

“Raju and our herd of hope are the lucky ones. But there are 67 performing elephants in India – many of which suffer daily beatings in order to make them perform.’We’re already planning our next rescue – the desperate case of a blind elephant who is forced to perform even though she can’t see for crowds. It’s a pitiful case and we need to free her so she can join Raju. Now the public can help him live out a dignified life in peace with even a small donation,’ Mr said Kartick, whose charity is dependent on public donations.’All these elephants have known from human beings is pain and suffering – now we’re asking to help us help him live out their days, with grass under their feet – free from humiliation and pain.”

Raju at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center…

5Raju being treated for his wounds and abscesses

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

6Finally getting a taste of freedom in his natural habitat

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

7Washing himself off and staying cool

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

8Feels great to finally feel clean and refreshed

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

9Exploring the grounds at his new home

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

10Having fun in the pool with his new toy!

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Credit: Press People / Wildlife SOS

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