This past July, under the cover of darkness, a 10-person team of conservationists and wildlife experts, 20 forestry department officials, and six policeman rescued an elephant named Raju from five decades of abuse. The elephant has been forced to endure a life of painful shackles and handouts from tourists; mostly subsisting on plastic and paper for food. The rescue became even more emotional after Raju began crying while officials removed his bonds.
"Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals, who have been proven to have feelings of grief, so we can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him," he added.
Rescuer Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar removes the spiked chains from Raju's feet during the elephant's nighttime rescue. (Photo: Wildlife SOS)
According to Deadline, Raju's heartbreaking story and dramatic rescue will now be made into a dramatic feature film. The story will focus not only the elephant, but also the efforts by Kartrick Satyanarayan (head of the Wildlife SOS Center in India) and Nikki Sharp (head of the Wildlife SOS Foundation) to free him.
And the story's not yet over. Efforts are underway by Raju's previous owner to return him to a life of enslavement. A court date set for September 11th will ultimately decide the elephant's fate, but Wildlife SOS officials are confident they will win; specifically citing the fact that the previous owner did not have legal custody of Raju.
"We are hoping the courts will see sense that this can never happen as Raju was treated with such appalling cruelty and torture in his hands in the first place and the man claiming ownership of Raju has no legal grounds to claim him back under Indian law," Satyanarayan told the Daily Mail.
Check out a video of Raju's rescue and new home below. To contribute to a petition to support his release, jump here.
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