Elephant freed after 50 years in captivity

Raju lived his entire life in chains and was subjected to daily abused and beatings.

Raju the elephant was released from captivity after 50 years by Wildlife SOS. Picture: Wildlife SOS.

JOHANNESBURG - An Indian elephant has been freed from captivity after 50 years.

Raju was freed in the early hours of 4 July by Wildlife SOS, a Delhi-based NGO.

The tuskless bull elephant had lived all his life in chains and was subjected to daily abuse and beatings to 'discipline' him for a life of begging so his owner could make a profit from him.

Wildlife SOS co-founder Geeta Seshamani said Raju was in grave danger.

"We quickly realised we had to act as quickly as possible as his situation was so desperate and the cruelty so extreme so we decided to move the rescue forward by a day. The chains around his legs had spikes which were cutting into his flesh - and each time he moved pus would ooze out of wounds. Pain and brutality were all he knew. His cruel handler even tore out all the hair from his tail to sell as good luck charms. The exploitation and abuse just had to stop."

The 10-member rescue team successfully freed Raju and took him to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura.

He was seemingly so overjoyed with happiness, that Wildlife SOS members said he had tears rolling down his face.

According to an investigation by Wildlife SOS, Raju was traded as a commodity every one to two years of his life and even dragged to the Sonpur elephant fair in Bihar where elephants are illegally traded under the guise of exhibition.