Many of us read the plight of Raju the elephant and the dire need to get him to a sanctuary. What we may not have known or realized was all the behind the scenes efforts made by Wildlife SOS to make this happen.
For 50 years, Raju the elephant was forced to work as a begging elephant in Allahabad. His legs were bound in spiked chains that made walking difficult and left him with chronic wounds. Cavan Sieczkowski writes in his article for Huffington Post, in addition to the abuse, Raju was forced to live off scraps from passing tourists. Day after day he was forced to hold out his trunk, begging for a few coins, on the streets of India. He was so hungry he’d eat plastic and paper to fill his empty stomach.
About two weeks ago, the charity Wildlife SOS, a group established to protect endangered wildlife in India stepped in to save Raju from dying by expiditng a daring midnight rescue operation. How fitting he was finally freed one minute into July 4th, America’s Independence Day. Watch the daring rescue in the video below!
BEHIND THE SCENES
There were many hurdles to overcome before this daring rescue happened. Court orders had to be secured before Wildlife SOS deployed a rescue team from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura (ECCC). This ECCC established by Wildlife SOS in collaboration with the U.P.Forest Department in Mathura (about 45 minutes from the Taj Mahal) also happens to be India’s first and only chain free elephant care center where modern management techniques such as protected contact and positive reinforcement are used.
The Wildlife SOS Elephant Rescue Team comprised of a special wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Yaduraj, in addition to four elephant keepers, community-based animal health workers, emergency staff and a wildlife biologist. They all arrived in Allahabad armed with tranquilizing equipment, medicines and rescue gear to help rescue and move Raju to his new home, the ECCC in Mathura. The Forestry Divsion of Allahabad (DFO office) and about twenty officers facilitated the rescue operation. The rescue was not that cut and dry. Raju’s owner tried to prevent the rescue. He began shouting commands to terrify and provoke Raju which could have created a dangerous situation for human and bull elephant alike. When the shouting did not work, Raju’s owner put a series of chains tightly around his legs in an attempt to prevent Wildlife SOS from removing him. After standing ground, the organization was able to load Raju gently on to the truck which was driven with the veterinary team. They gave him fruits to keep his enery level up and hosed down with cool water to prevent dehydration through the sixteen hour journey.When Raju stepped out of the truck and took his first steps to freedom, the other elephants in the sanctuary awoke from their sleep and walked over to have a look. Then the charity’s head wildlife vet began the painstaking process of removing his shackles. Finally, he is receiving human kindness and compassion.
Unfortunately, Raju’s story is an all too common occurrence in India. With his story and video going viral, it shows the rest of the world that a small group of determined and passionate people can make a big difference. Wildlife SOS’s dream to make lasting change, protect and conserve India’s natural heritage, forests and wildlife wealth is coming to fruition. Today, India’s wildlife is under severe threat and this organization is their glimmer of hope. In a third world country where there is so much corruption it’s encouraging to see organizations using their money for all the right reasons! If you would like to learn more and/or help contribute to Wildlife SOS’s mission, check out their website and consider donating.