An elephant that was formerly kept in captivity celebrated five years of freedom with a sweet ceremony organised for him. Popularly known as Raju, the elephant spent the first five decades of his life roaming the streets of Uttar Pradesh seeking alms for his owner, while being kept in custody illegally. In 2014, the NGO Wildlife SOS successfully rescued the animal and treated him to a healthy ‘cake’ this year to celebrate his freedom.
The NGO said that the elephant was in a miserable state after years of mistreatment, abuse and inadequate care. He was kept tightly restrained with spiked chains, and his body bore multiple scars and chronic abscesses that are believed to be evidence of repeated jabs with a bullhook.
“The first time I laid eyes on Raju, I was shocked to see him living in such detrimental conditions. He had spiked chains on his feet that were digging into his flesh, and his body was riddled with scars and painful abscesses,” said Dr Yaduraj Khadpekar, a veterinary officer who led Raju’s rescue operation, in a statement.
The team at the Elephant Conservation & Care Centre at Mathura put together a surprise for Raju this year: a ‘cake’ filled with his favourite fruits like mango and watermelon. Raju was said to be delighted to find the treat and within minutes it was all gone.
“The past five years with Raju has been an incredible journey for all of us. His determination to get better has accelerated his recovery to an extent that nobody was sure, was possible,” CEO Wildlife SOS Kartick Satyanarayan said in a statement. “Watching Raju enjoy his retirement in peace fills our heart with happiness and keeps us motivated to help other elephants that continue to be treated with such cruelty, as he was.”