After 50 Years Of sᴜꜰꜰᴇʀɪɴɢ In ᴄʜᴀɪɴs, The Elephant Began To ᴄʀʏ As Soon As He Realized He Was Being Saved

Seven years after Raju the elephant was released from ᴄʜᴀɪɴs, The People returns to see the legacy that’s saved 40 more and learns how readers can help the good work. An elephant who cried as he was freed from 50 years spent in ᴄʜᴀɪɴs has learned to trust again after almost eight years in recovery. Raju became a global symbol of hope among animal welfare campaigners and his rescue has led to 40 other elephants being saved from similar ʜᴏʀʀɪꜰɪᴄ ᴀʙᴜsᴇ.Shackled 24 hours a day in spiked ᴄʜᴀɪɴs, he had been ­routinely ʙᴇᴀᴛᴇɴ and sᴛᴀʀᴠᴇᴅ. But he was saved in a ᴅᴀʀɪɴɢ midnight rescue by a team from British and Indian ­charity Wɪʟᴅʟɪꜰᴇ SOS, who were “stunned” when Raju wept as he realised his ordeal was ending. Photos of him ᴄʀʏing as his ᴄʜᴀɪɴs were cut away were revealed in the Sunday People before making ­headlines around the globe. Wɪʟᴅʟɪꜰᴇ SOS co-founder Kartick Satyanarayan said much has changed in the years since. He said: “He’s ­finally learned to trust humans again – that really is a miracle. He’d gone through so much sᴜꜰꜰᴇʀɪɴɢ we’d wondered if that could ever be possible.Once he realised he was in safe hands, Raju gradually began to show us his personality and has become extremely gentle. His rehabilitation has been astonishing to witness.”Today, Raju has a field to walk freely around, takes relaxing dust baths and even has a personal pool to splash about in, playing with his favourite toy – a huge rubber tyre. But, says Kartick, the story does not end there. He stressed: “If anything, it begins from it. Our team now works with unparalleled dedication in ­tracking ᴀɪʟɪɴɢ, ᴀʙᴜsᴇ.d elephants from all across the country.”

Support from around the globe after Raju’s rescue has enabled the charity to save 40 more elephants – with the most recent rescue on New Year’s Eve. Kartick said: “Our latest three, all saved in December, sum up the sᴜꜰꜰᴇʀɪɴɢ. Pari, who arrived at our elephant hospital on December 1, has been left ᴄʀɪᴘᴘʟᴇᴅ where she’d been tethered in an abnormal position for decades.“Ginger was covered in chemical paint and charcoal decorations – used for wedding processions, but also to distract from her ᴛᴇʀʀɪʙʟᴇ ᴀʙsᴄᴇssᴇs and ʙᴜʟʟ ʜᴏᴏᴋ ᴡᴏᴜɴᴅs.” On top of that, Ginger is ʙʟɪɴᴅ, probably done to her deliberately to make money out of people’s sympathy. Kartick added: “It’s ʜᴇᴀʀᴛʙʀᴇᴀᴋɪɴɢ. She’s suffered 60 years of ʜᴏʀʀᴏʀ. She must be so exhausted.”The third and most recent rescued animal is Lakshmi, between 25 and 30 years old and thought to be the thinnest elephant ever seen in India.When Raju – thought to be 58 – was rescued in July 2014, he had been “owned” by 27 different people across five decades. Kartick said: “It had left him gaunt and ᴍɪsᴇʀᴀʙʟᴇ. He was restrained with spiked ᴄʜᴀɪɴs and his withering body bore multiple scars and chronic ­abscesses – it was pitiful.”The charity boss, who founded Wɪʟᴅʟɪꜰᴇ SOS in 1995 with Geeta Seshamani, says he will never forget the moment his team cut Raju free. He said: “Re­moving those ᴄʜᴀɪɴs was symbolic. As well as freeing Raju, for us it meant this great responsibility to give him a second chance at life. “And as for the tears? It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We don’t know how scientific this is, but it seemed like he understood that we were there to help him.”They are deprived of sleep, food and water for months, ᴛɪɢʜᴛʟʏ restrained, and ʙᴇᴀᴛᴇɴ into submission with electric ᴘʀᴏᴅsand ʙᴜʟʟʜᴏᴏᴋs. Kartick said: “The process isʙʀᴜᴛᴀl. It is known as ‘phajaan’, or the breaking of the spirit. The objective is to driveꜰᴇᴀʀ into it to the extent that it’s too ᴛᴇʀʀɪꜰɪᴇᴅ to ever retaliate.”While many UK tour operators now promote cruelty-free travel, he says everyone can help by signing the petition at refusetoride.org. Kartick added: “For every elephant ride that makes one feel like royalty, we must remember that the elephant suffers a lifetime of ᴀʙᴜsᴇ. and ᴛᴏʀᴛᴜʀᴇ.“With the help of the Refuse to Ride campaign, we encourage tourists to opt for ethical practices by refusing to ride them for entertainment.“Our message is simple – if you love elephants, please do not ride them.”


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