An elephant who was abused by poachers and kept in chains for more than 50 years was recently united with a herd of elephants at a conservation area in India.
Raju was treated brutally by poachers after being orphaned when he was just a young calf, according to the Daily Mail. His story gained attention after a video of his rescue showed that he was crying when the chains were removed from his legs.
At the Wildlife SOS's Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India, Raju now lives with five other female elephants. Together, they are called the Herd of Hope because they have all been rescued from cruel treatment and conditions.
When Raju arrived at his new home, he was reportedly apprehensive. The other elephants flapped their ears at him to show joy and he soon felt more comfortable in the area.
“We are delighted Raju has fitted in so well with the first family he's ever had since he was orphaned by poachers as a calf,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, Charity Wildlife SOS founder. “He had been so terribly brutalized for 50 years that we feared he'd be unable to live with his own kind. He didn't even know how to be an elephant. But now it's like he's always been with them.”
Raju was rescued around midnight on July 4 by members of Charity Wildlife SOS, along with Forestry Department officers and police.
“He'd been poached as a calf from the wild. Poachers either slaughter the mother, or they drive the herd into traps that are small enough only for the babies to fall into,” Satyanarayan said. “The calves are...tied and beaten until they submit to their owners – their spirits are effectively broken.”
Satyanarayan added that members of the charity suspect that Raju was sold many times by different poachers and beaten by each one of them.
“By the time we found him he was in a pathetic condition,” he said. “He hadn't been fed properly and tourists started giving him sweet food items and because he was in a state of hunger and exhaustion he began eating plastic and paper.”
Satyanarayan added that the chains on Raju’s legs had been there for decades.
“His legs were so covered in abscesses and his feet so damaged by walking on hard tarmac roads, that we have spent much more than expected on his medical treatment, and we still have a long way to go as he has a serious limp and open wounds,” he said.
The elephants Raju now stays with also have disturbing stories of abuse, with one of the elephants having a fracture that never completely healed over multiple years and another being fed junk food for years until she became obese and developed early arthritis.
While some of the elements still need years to fully heal, the Herd of Hope seems happy now with one another, as they play in mud baths together and flutter their ears.
Source: The Daily Mail / Photos: Screenshots from the video above.