For five decades, Raju endured a life of suffering and isolation. Seized from his family as a young calf, he spent most of his life as a begging elephant on the sweltering streets of Uttar Pradesh, India.
Each day, his owner would ride on his back, parading him on the scorching asphalt to collect tips. A cruel chain and spiked shackle constantly dug into his leg, preventing any escape.
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His body bore the brutal marks of a bullhook – a sharp metal instrument used to “train” elephants.
Raju survived on meager scraps tossed at him by passersby, trapped in an unending cycle of torment. However, in July 2014, a turning point emerged as Wildlife SOS rescuers secured a court order to gain custody of Raju, heralding a fresh start for him.
Tears welled up in Raju’s weary eyes as his chains and shackles were finally removed. The light of a better life began to shine after so many years of darkness.
“Raju became a beacon of hope for mistreated elephants worldwide,” Wildlife SOS remarked. “His spirit, though nearly broken, testified to the trials he endured.”
Transported to the Wildlife SOS rescue center, Raju received swift medical attention for his wounded leg – a casualty of the shackle.
Severe malnutrition, foot problems, and painful abscesses from his years as a street performer also plagued him.
Fast forward four years, and Raju revels in his newfound freedom as a liberated elephant. Recently, Wildlife SOS commemorated his rescue anniversary with a surprise celebration, adorning his environment with decorations, toys, and delectable treats.
Boxes brimming with his favorite snacks were presented for him to unwrap joyously. Delighting in a trunk full of popcorn, he basked in contentment.
He even indulged in previously denied pleasures, such as lounging in a pool and relishing watermelon.
“Raju’s deepening fondness for the pool has been a heartening aspect of his recovery,” stated Geeta Seshamani, Wildlife SOS co-founder.
“Not only does it relieve the heat, but it also eases the strain on his legs and joints.”
Transformed by four years of care, companionship, and the company of fellow rescued elephants, Raju is nearly unrecognizable from the frail, broken creature he once was.
While adversity has marked his life, his remaining years promise to be filled with sweetness.
“I am truly amazed by his resilience,” exclaimed Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar, senior veterinary officer for the rescue. “Witnessing Raju’s incredible journey to recovery has been an absolute honor.”
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