Tortured elephant cries tears of joy as he's rescued from 50 years of abuse
Saturday, July 12, 2014, 6:49 PM -
Fifty year old Raju bobs his head relentlessly. His caretakers say it's a sign of the trauma he's had to endure.
He was shackled and abused for five decades. Even though he's now in a safe house with almost a dozen other rescued elephants, they say he's not quite sure how to react to his new surroundings.
All his life, Raju was forced to work as a begging prop for his owners, sometimes he would be rented out for Indian weddings. To keep him under control, his owners allegedy starved and beat him.
After investigating Raju's case for more than a year, Kartick Satyanarayan and his team from Wildlife SOS rescued Raju last week.
A team of ten wildlife experts and 30 enforcement officers entered his enclosure, on the side of the road, in the middle of the night -- images of what happened next have gone viral.
"He had these huge gushes of liquid coming out of his eyes and just pouring down on either side of his cheek," said Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.
The rescue operation took 8 hours. as Raju was unchained, Satyanarayan says he cried again.
"It was a very emotional moment and our vet doctor who is by far the most scientific person in the our group said 'you know, you can't say those tears have nothing to do with pain initially', and then he said 'you know, it looks like he understands that we are here to help him,'" said Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar, senior veterinary officer.
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"It's okay for animals to have some tears but he was weeping there was so much tears coming out we could see he was in a lot of pain."
Wildlife SOS has rescued thousands of animals, including 11 elephants. Those who've been rehabilitated walk around freely. Some 3,000 elephants remain in captivity though, in India alone. In a country where the majority of Indians still live in impoverished circumstances. Animals, for the most part, have yet to become a priority.
"I think the biggest challenge is the mindset of the people who deal with captive elephants," said Geeta Seshamani, another co-founder of Wildlife SOS. "They justify almost every kind of cruelty that is practiced against captive elephants on ground of traditions.”
As for Raju, experts say it will take years for him to learn to accept the kindness of human beings. He's still half the weight he should be, but for now, at last, he's free.
Files from CNN