After fifty long years of being chained and leading a life of suffering, Raju the elephant was freed in the early hours of the morning on July 4, 2014 by Wildlife SOS. For the first time after five decades, he enjoyed freedom. It is an interesting coincidence that July 4 happened to be Independence Day in the U.S.!
Raju is a 50 year old makna (tuskless male) bull elephant who has lived all his life in chains with very little to eat. Not much is known about Raju’s early year, but we conclude that he was possibly poached from the forest as a young calf and then sold to several people, one after the other, all his life. All through this, he 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 investigation indicates that he 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.
The Uttar Pradesh Forest Department informed Wildlife SOS about Raju’s plight a year ago, after which it took a year to get the necessary paperwork and permits , including a court order to initiate steps to rescue and rehabilitate Raju.
Once the court orders was secured, Wildlife SOS deployed a rescue team from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura. This facility, about 45 minutes from the Taj Mahal, also happens to be India’s first and only chain-free elephant care center. Wildlife SOS veterinarian Dr.Yaduraj Khadpekar led the operation, accompanied by four elephant keepers, para veterinarians, emergency staff and a wildlife biologist. About 20 forest officers assisted the rescue operation.A special ten wheel truck was arranged to transport Raju. During his 16-hour ride , Raju was given bananas, jackfruit, and mangoes to keep his energy level up. Raju’s rescue truck was a part of a convoy of vehicles including a pilot vehicle from Wildlife SOS and Forest Department vehicles.
At his new home, Raju will no longer be abused with spikes or beatings and will have his own enclosure to walk in freely sans chains with access to a fresh water pool. He will also have the company of seven other elephants. “The next six months with Raju will be very challenging,” said Dr. Yaduraj, “but. we are confident that he will soon recover and have a healthy and happy life ahead.”
––Suvidha Bhatnagar, Communication Officer
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