Raju’s 1st Anniversary
It’s been one year since we released Raju from his chains. You can read the story of his first year below, and you’ll also find a photo gallery at the bottom of this page. You can also watch a video about his first year with us on YouTube. We are very grateful to everyone who has supported Raju over the last year, and know that Raju would thank you, too, if he could.
Sadly, there are still many other captive elephants who are suffering just as Raju did. We’ve created Raju’s Rescue Fund to help them. All money donated to this fund will be used to help rescue and care for abused elephants. Please donate today.
When Wildlife SOS first encountered Raju, he was working as a begging elephant on the streets of Allahabad. The spiked chains that had shackled him and controlled him all these years had dug deep into his flesh, producing abscesses and open wounds. His withering body bore multiple scars from ankush (bull hook) use, and his spirit was all but broken, a testament to the ordeals he had been through. For such a large animal, Raju cut a pitiful, helpless sight when we first met him. This meeting was to change Raju’s destiny forever.
Poached as a calf and seized from the forest, Raju had been subjected to half a century of neglect and abuse. As a calf, he switched hands constantly, from one mahout to another, suffering violence and mistreatment at the hands of each. He was beaten and starved as part of the indoctrination and training process for the life he seemed destined for- that of a working elephant. To fulfill this destiny, Raju was traded almost every two years, and investigations revealed that he was even put up at the Sonepur Mela, a hub for illegal wildlife trade held annually at Sonepur, Bihar.
The 4th of July 2014 was the day everything changed for Raju and Wildlife SOS. The nighttime rescue operation and Raju’s first reactions to freedom went viral, and his story broke hearts across the globe. Support poured in from everywhere, as Raju made the journey from Allahabad to Wildlife SOS’ Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura.
4th July 2014 was the day everything changed for Raju and Wildlife SOS. The nighttime rescue operation and Raju’s first reactions to freedom went viral, and his story broke hearts across the globe. Support poured in from everywhere, as Raju made the journey from Allahabad to Wildlife SOS’ Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura.
Raju was timid and fearful at first, unable to comprehend his freedom and still unsure about walking free without his spiked chains. It took him a few weeks to familiarize himself with his new home and to accept that he was finally free, and that his life had changed for the better.
From the day he arrived, the trained team of veterinarians at ECCC began the arduous task of treating Raju’s multiple wounds and preparing a nutritious diet for him- thereby slowly and carefully undoing the horrifying evidence of his former life of brutality.
Things were finally looking up for this gentle giant.
And then, a few months into Raju’s new life, things took a worrying turn. The elephant’s former owner, Mr. Shahid, filed court papers in an attempt to get him back. We were horrified at the thought of Raju returning to his former life of misery, especially when he was just beginning to enjoy the life of a free elephant at our centre. Determined to never let Raju be hurt or mistreated again, and dead set on ensuring he stayed free and happy, like he was meant to be, we put forth a petition for Raju’s freedom. The response was heartwarming and overwhelming, and the support and love that flowed in from everywhere, touched our hearts and won us the court case. The court ruled in favor of Wildlife SOS and Raju was declared officially free, forever.
One year on, Raju’s progress has validated all the work that went into his rescue, and all the support he received. This bull elephant stands tall and free, as testament to the persevering spirit of this beautiful species. His wounds are healing under the dedicated care of our medical staff and he is slowly but surely gaining the weight he needs to be a really healthy bull. The love and patience of the keepers and staff, as well as the affection of our volunteers and supporters has made a huge difference to Raju’s demeanor and he is over his initial apprehension and distrust of humans. Raju remains a star at our centre, where he can be seen reveling in his new home- splashing about in his pool, eating, playing with his toys and enrichments, going on long strolls and socializing with the other wonderful elephants at our centre- healthy, happy and free at long last.