Although elephants are some of the most powerful and poised animals on the planet, they are also simultaneously some of the most abused. Asian elephants are common targets of the entertainment and tourism industry. Ripped from their wild homes and “domesticated” by way of brutal force and fear, these animals are deprived of any semblance of a natural life. As highly emotional and intelligent animals, being forced to work carrying tourists non-stop for days on end is sheer torture.

Tragically, this was the life that Raju the elephant lived for 50, very long years. Over the course of his life, Raju was passed between 27 different captors. During this time he serves as a tourism prop, walking the streets with his mahout (trainer) begging for money in exchange for “blessings.” He lived on nothing more than scraps and trash that he picked up on the streets. Life in these horrific conditions took a serious toll on the aging elephant. Thankfully, when the team at Wildlife SOS was alerted to Raju’s plight, they set into action to free him from his chains, once and for all. But the journey to gain his freedom was hardly an easy one.

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On the night of their rescue operation, Raju’s captors organized to have people block the road to prevent rescue trucks from getting through, they also inundated Raju with chains and spikes to make it all the more difficult to release him. Undaunted, the Wildlife SOS team managed to break through and finally cut the hard metal that had dug into Raju’s legs for his entire life. According to reports, when he finally realized he was being freed, Raju was brought to tears.

A beautiful two years later, and this is what Raju looks like now…

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This infectious smile was made possible by the compassionate people at Wildlife SOS who refused to be deterred in their pursuit to free Raju. This organization didn’t just removed Raju’s chains, but they gave him a whole new life. While the ultimate life for this sweet elephant would be out in the wild with his herd, living in the care of the Wildlife SOS sanctuary is certainly a close second. Since his arrival, Raju has gotten the best care, more fresh fruit than he could ever imagine, and importantly, a new herd of rescued elephant brothers and sisters.

No animal should ever have to suffer for the sake of our entertainment. We can all help make a difference for captive elephants by refusing to support animal attractions of any kind and support organizations like Wildlife SOS who are on the ground rescuing animals in need. To learn more about Wildlife SOS and Raju, click here.

Image source: Wildlife SOS