The heart-warming moment Raju the crying elephant found a girlfriend and had his first proper meal in decades after being starved and kept in spiked chains for 50 years
The elephant who cried tears when he was released after being held in chains, beaten and abused for fifty years has begun his new life with his adoptive family.
Raju the elephant was introduced to Phoolkali, the first member of his new friends on Wednesday after being released on July 4 in a midnight mission by charity Wildlife SOS.
The five-and-a-half tonne animal was freed from his spiked shackles and driven 350 miles away to the safety of the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura, northern India, which he now calls home.
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Heartwarming: Raju (left) the elephant meets his new adoptive family member Phoolkali (right) at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura
Raju's female friend Phoolkali is also a rescued elephant and was saved two years ago after she was found starving in a deserted windowless warehouse.
Now fit and healthy, Phoolkali insisted on sharing her evening snack with Raju upon his arrival. And Raju happily feasted on mangoes, jackfruit, bananas and biscuits.
However, Wildlife SOS vet Dr Yadu, who is caring for Raju in his new home, said the elephant has 'lost his faith in humanity'.
Friends already: Phoolkali insisted on sharing her evening snack with Raju upon his arrival
Food for a king: Raju (right) happily feasted on mangoes, jackfruit, bananas and biscuits when he was welcomed to his new home
Staff are currently treating Raju's leg wounds, caused by five decades in spiked shackles.
On Monday incredible pictures emerged showing the moment Raju was released to freedom.
The elephant was living on hand-outs from passing tourists after he was captured and tied up by his ‘owner’.
But, after 50 years of torture, the animal cried tears of relief after he was rescued by a wildlife charity in a daring midnight operation – fittingly on American Independence Day.
Taking a nap: 'More then anything, now its time for Raju to just rest after 50 years, he deserves it,' a photo posted on Wildlife SOS's Facebook page says. In this photo Raju's keeper gently helps him to take a nap
Healing: Vet Dr Yadu, who is caring for Raju in his new home, said the elephant has 'lost his faith in humanity'. Here Dr Yadu is seen applying lotion to Raju's cuts
Help: The Wildlife SOS vet explains in a video how he has been trying to treat the wounds on Raju's legs caused by 50 years in spiked shackles
North London-based charity Wildlife SOS stepped in to save Raju from dying in his bonds after learning of his plight in India.
Every day, the majestic animal was forced to hold out his trunk and beg for a few coins from passers-by – surviving only on plastic and paper for food.
However, last week, a 10-strong team of vets and wildlife experts from the charity were joined by 20 forestry department officers and six policemen to seize Raju from his suffering in the Uttar Pradesh area of India.
Shower of joy: Raju refreshes himself from all the pain and suffering that he has gone through in the last 50 years inside his enclosure
Raju the elephant was said to cry tears of joy as he was released from spiked shackles in the Uttar Pradesh area of India after fifty years of torture
North London-based charity Wildlife SOS stepped in to save Raju after learning of his plight in India
The mission took place under the cover of darkness, as fewer people would be around for the dangerous rescue and the animal could be protected from the searing heat of the sun.
Pooja Binepal, the charity’s UK spokesman, described the rescue as ‘incredibly emotional’ for the team.
She said: ‘Raju has spent the past 50 years living a pitiful existence in chains 24 hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty.
Every day, the majestic animal was forced to hold out his trunk and beg for coins from passers-by - surviving only on plastic and paper for food
The elephant was left bleeding from spiked shackles and living on hand-outs from passing tourists after he was captured by his 'owner'
Wildlife SOS vet Dr Yaduraj Khadpekar tries to free Raju from the chains which he was kept in for 50 years
Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan said: 'The chains around his legs had spikes which were cutting into his flesh - and each time he moved puss would ooze out of wounds. Pain and brutality were all he knew'
‘The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed.
‘Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals, who have been proven to have feelings of grief, so we can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him.
‘Until we stepped in he'd never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles – it's a truly pitiful case.
‘But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like and what it's like to not suffer any more.’
The daring rescue came exactly a year to the day since the charity was alerted to Raju's plight by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in India.
A confiscation process went through the courts as Raju's owner did not have any legal documents for his possession meaning the charity could rescue him from suffering.
It is not known exactly how Raju came into his plight, as little is known about his early years, but the charity believes he was poached from his mother as a young calf.
Once rescued, he was loaded into an open-top lorry, given additional sedation and escorted 350 miles to the charity's Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura
The daring rescue came exactly a year to the day since the charity was alerted to Raju's plight by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in India
The charity has now launched a campaign to raise £10,000 for Raju to help begin the start of his new life
Ms Binepal said: ‘The poachers either slaughter the mother, or they drive the herd into traps that are small enough only for the babies to fall into. The mother cries for her baby for days after he's been stolen – it is a sickening trade.
‘The calves are then tied and beaten until they submit to their owners – their spirits are effectively broken.
‘We discovered Raju's case was particularly tragic.
‘He'd been poached as a calf and then he has been sold on and sold on. Incredibly we believe he has had up to 27 owners – he's been treated as a commodity every two years of his life.
‘By the time we found him in July 2013 he was in a pathetic condition. He had no shelter at night, and was being used as a prop to beg from dawn until dusk from tourists visiting the sites of India.
‘He hasn'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.
‘His nails are severely overgrown, he has abscesses and wounds because of the shackles and continually walking on a tarmac road has led to his foot pad overgrowing.’
Once the court order was finally issued, a team led by Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan carried out two days of surveillance before launching the rescue.
Pooja Binepal, the charity's UK spokesman, described the rescue as 'incredibly emotional' for the team
Raju, after his release, with reformed former mahout Sonu Ali who will care for him at the sanctuary
Over the weekend, Raju received emergency medical attention to his wounds as well as a bath and food
Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘As we watched we quickly realised we had to act as quickly as possible as his situation was so desperate and the cruelty so extreme so we decided to move the rescue forward by a day.
‘The chains around his legs had spikes which were cutting into his flesh – and each time he moved puss would ooze out of wounds. Pain and brutality were all he knew.
‘His cruel handler even tore out the hair from his tail to sell as good luck charms. The exploitation and abuse just had to stop.’
However, even on Thursday evening as the mercy mission began, Raju's owner tried to prevent his rescue.
Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘He began to shout commands to terrify Raju – and try to provoke him.
‘It created an incredibly dangerous situation as a bull elephant could snap a human like a tooth pick if he becomes afraid or angry.
‘When that failed he then put a series of chains around his legs in an attempt to prevent us removing him – so viciously tight that were cutting into his legs.
Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals, who have been proven to have feelings of grief, so we can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him.
‘But we stood our ground and refused to back down – and as we did so, tears began to roll down Raju's face. Some no doubt were due to the pain being inflicted by the chains, but he also seemed to sense that change was coming. It was as if he felt hope for the first time in a very long time.
‘We knew it was now or never so we made the drastic decision to move his transportation truck closer and then walk him 200 yards.
‘Every step would have been agony, but we had to take him, or he could have vanished forever. We decided we'd remove the shackles once we'd got him to safety.’
Incredibly, Raju calmly complied, despite every step causing searing agony.
‘It was as if he knew we wanted to help him,’ Mr Satyanarayan said.
Once he was loaded, and given additional sedation, a convoy then escorted the five-and-a-half tonne elephant, 350 miles on the back of an open-top lorry to the charity's Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura.
‘Incredibly he stepped out of his truck and took his first step to freedom at one minute past midnight on July 4th, which felt so extraordinarily fitting,’ Mr Satyanarayan said.
‘The other elephants in the sanctuary awoke from their sleep as we pulled in and came to have a look – it was an extraordinary moment.’
Raju was then fed bananas, banana leaves, mango and bread and biscuits and given water before the charity's head wildlife vet Dr Yaduraj Khadpekar began the painstaking process of removing his shackles.
Mr Satyanarayan said: ‘It took him and two handlers 45 minutes to liberate him as they'd been wound round his legs to prevent their removal and to cause pain if anyone tried to take them off.
‘We all had tears in our eyes as the last rope which held the final spike was cut and Raju took his first steps of freedom.
‘The entire team were exhausted, but incredibly elated as he has suffered such unthinkable abuse and trauma for so, so long. He'd been beaten so badly, his spirit is broken.'
The rescue took place under the cover of darkness, as fewer people would be around for the dangerous rescue and the animal could be protected from the heat of the sun
A 10-strong team of vets and wildlife experts from the charity were joined by 20 forestry department officers and six policemen to seize Raju from his suffering in the Uttar Pradesh area
Over the weekend, Raju received emergency medical attention to his wounds as well as a proper bath and food.
‘It will be a long rehabilitation process, but we will teach him that humans don't mean pain and brutality, but it's going to take time,’ Mr Satyanarayan said.
‘When he is ready he will initially join two companion elephants called Rajesh and Bhola, who once also suffered unthinkable cruelty.
‘They've both been rehabilitated and once he settles he will learn how to live again by following their example, before he joins the rest of the elephants – including five flirtatious females to live out his days.
‘But for the moment he's tasting freedom for the first time in his life and he'll spend the rest of his life in a safe compound living out his days in dignity, free from suffering and pain.’
The charity has now launched a campaign to raise £10,000 to help Raju begin the start of his new life in a new enclosure which will allow him to roam with his adoptive family.
No wonder he's all smiles! Raju the crying elephant, who moved the world after being pictured in tears when he was freed from his chains, is welcomed to his new home - by five females
It was the moment Raju the elephant had waited a lifetime for – a family of his own.
Last week the gentle giant, who captured the hearts of people from around the world when he cried as he was freed from chains after 50 years – joined five female elephants at Wildlife SOS's Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India.
His new family, named the Herd of Hope, have all been rescued from barbaric treatment.
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Happy chappy: Raju, centre, was introduced to his new friends at a conservation centre in India
Enjoying himself: Raju smiles widely as he relaxes in the pool next to his new family - called the Herd of Hope
Gang's all here: Raju's friends have also escaped from great cruelty and now live in Mathura, northern India
And poignantly, they flapped their ears – an expression of joy - before touching him with their trunks as they welcomed him.
Charity Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan, who led the rescue operation to save Raju, said: '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.
'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. 'When we first released him, he held back and he was clearly wary. Three of our female elephants Laxmi, Chanchal and Sai Geeta ran up to him – their ears flapping wildly –a sign they were excited and delighted to meet him. They also made high-pitched trumpeting sounds – a greeting.
Affectionate: One of Raju's female friends, left, strokes his trunk with hers. He was initially wary of contact because of his appalling treatment at the hands of captors
Rehabilitation: The pool's water lets Raju take weight off of his legs - which are painful from years of abuse
Taking it easy: Raju was poached as a calf - and endured an awful life as a tourist attraction - but can now relax
'Then each of them touched him with their trunks, clearly reassuring him before they wandered off into the grazing land at our Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura. It was incredibly touching after all he'd been through.'
On July 4 this year the charity along with their counterparts in India saved Raju from dying in his bonds in a daring midnight rescue operation.
A team of ten vets and wildlife experts from the charity were joined by twenty Forestry Department officers and six policemen to seize Raju in the Uttar Pradesh region.
Mr Satyanarayan said: '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.
'The mother cries for her baby for days after he's been stolen – the illegal elephant trade is sickening. The calves are then tied and beaten until they submit to their owners – their spirits are effectively broken.
'27 owners': Raju, right, was passed from owner to owne in captivity, and eventually was found in spiked chains
Playtime: Raju, left, has been able to start his recovery in the sanctuary, after being blighted by wounds all over his legs and body while in captivity
'Raju's case was particularly tragic as we believe he has been sold again and again and might have had 27 owners – he's been treated as a commodity and beaten into accepting his new handler every two years of his life.
'By the time we found him he was in a pathetic condition. 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.
'He had no shelter at night, and was being used as a prop to beg with from dawn until dusk or being used for giving tourists joy rides. And most heartrendingly of all – the chains that cut into his legs had been there for 50 years. It was horrific.
'It took us 45 minutes to remove the shackles that had torn into the flesh on his legs for the past 50 years – an act of unthinkable cruelty.
'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.'
Tearful: Raju, pictured above moments before he was freed from captivity, can be seen with 'tears' streaming down his face
Cruel: According to his rescuers, Raju had been in chains for as long as 50 years
Bound: Raju's chains, seen up close above, took 45 minutes for rescuers to disentangle
The elephants Raju has joined have also suffered horrendously before they were rescued by the charity.
The second most recent member of the herd is eighteen-year-old female Laxmi, saved from the streets of Mumbai ten months ago. Although she was young she suffered from severe arthritis, obesity and a heart condition.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'She'd been exploited and used as a begging prop, she was neglected and her owners had got her addicted to fried junk food.
'When we saved her she was 1,200 kilos overweight and so fat we had to use a crane to get her onto a specially-strengthened truck to drive her to our centre. She was so huge her knees were giving way and she had early arthritis.
'Our vets were concerned that she would not live much longer if she was not rescued immediately. But she has a great, if mischievous, character – even on the drive home her trunk kept sneaking through the window and she was searching in the drivers pockets for a treat.
'We have spent the last 10 months rehabilitating her – and at first it was a battle to get her to eat the food she should be eating. Now she's finally getting healthier, leaner and enjoying being a free elephant.
'But although Wildlife SOS was given legal custody of her by the Forest Department, her previous cruel owners are petitioning the courts to get her back and so now we are in a court battle to stop her being returned to the abusive situation we rescued her from.'
Midnight raid: Rescuers from Wildlife SOS are seen above breaking Raju free from captivity
Chanchal, 16, was rescued on June 29 2012 on the outskirts of Delhi after she and a second elephant were hit by a speeding truck.
The second elephant was killed instantly and Chanchal was left with cuts, shards of glass and wounds all over her body as well as a severely injured leg. She was undernourished and her owners were arrested for negligence.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'Her leg was fractured and it's taken us 18 months to nurse her back to health. She's slowly rebuilding her life.'
Sai Geeta was a circus elephant who was rescued after she was made to perform for years with a broken right rear leg.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'She still has a terrible limp where the break was never treated – the fracture was severe and when we rescued her she'd suffered for years in pain as it was never allowed to heal as they never allowed her to rest.'
Road to freedom: Raju was taken the sanctuary in Mathura, northern India, in this truck
Finally Phoolkali, who is blind in one eye was smuggled illegally for years before the charity was alerted to her plight and immediately stepped in to rescue her.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'Phoolkali had spent more than 40 years of her life doing hard labour, being abused and being underfed. And her maltreatment and severe abuse by her previous owners caused her to be blinded in one eye.
'Her owner would hide her in a windowless, deserted warehouse. Her owner would smuggle her across state borders in the dead of night to avoid detection by the authorities as he has no valid documentation for her legal possession.
'She was frail and scrawny and almost skeletal in appearance and covered in sores and wounds.
'Now she loves throwing mud on herself immediately after a long bath - much to the annoyance of her keeper - and also throws mud on him when he isn't paying attention.'
Years to recover: The head of Wildlife SOS said that it takes years to recover from Raju's decades-long ordeal
Today the nightmare for Raju and his herd is a distant memory. And they are also enjoying a rehabilitation pool thanks to the generosity of donors to the centre.
Mr Satyanarayan said: :We are overwhelmed by the generosity of people from so many countries around the globe. We hope that if the donations continue, better facilities can be established for Raju and the other elephants at the center who all deserve a better life to make up for the abuse they suffered all these years.
'When we rescued him, Raju had never been in a pool before – and now he spends hours relaxing inside it. We'd like to thank everyone who made a donation – every penny has made such a difference to the quality of his life.
'And while the pool is immensely pleasurable for him, it also is helping his rehabilitation as the water's buoyancy enables him to take the weight off his legs which are incredibly painful from years of being shackled.
'He still faces years of treatment to heal both the physical and psychological wounds. And sadly he's not alone. We have a dossier of 80 elephants whose life is in imminent peril and they also need to be rescued before they die of cruelty, exhaustion and abuse.'
Now the charity has launched an appeal for £20,000 to mark World Elephant Day on August 12.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'Our hope is that along with Raju, we can rescue many more of these tragic cases before it's too late for them. It will enable them to taste freedom for the first time in their lives and live out their days in dignity, free from suffering and pain.'