Elephant Raju, who for 50 years was subjected to terrible abuse at the hands of his captor and was freed by wildlife conservationists Wildlife SOS in July of 2014, now may have to return to his former owner; but, this fate must not happen. Since his rescue Raju has lived a peaceful life, where he receives care at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center, located in Mathura, India.
However, Raju’s previous owner has filed a lawsuit to get him back. Though Raju’s previous owner broke the law by obtaining the elephant, who was illegally captured, and though several organizations worked around the world to liberate Raju, the man who used to own Raju still insists that the pachyderm is his property.
Since he was a baby, Raju has endured one irresponsible owner after another. His latest owner treated him cruelly, making him wear spiked chains around his feet continuously and forcing him to beg from passing tourists. Raju was punished with a spear. The poor elephant never had enough to eat, leaving him under-nourished. Sometimes he was forced to eat paper or plastic trash if he wanted to survive.
Several individuals were involved in freeing Raju from his owner. The rescue included 10 veterinarians, Wildlife SOS experts, Forestry Commission officers and two police officers. Despite the fact that even police were involved in this mission to set Raju free, his owner claims that Raju is his property and was unfairly taken from him. Wildlife SOS intends to fight this claim. The case was delayed, pushed back to Sept. 11, tomorrow as of this writing.
The mission to free Raju from his harsh master was a dramatic one. Using soft words and fruits, his liberators drew him away from captivity even while his owner and others attempted to keep control of him. But Raju seemed to understand that he was being freed. According to one eyewitness, he cried during the rescue.
The rescue occurred on July 4, the day of American Independence. The thought of his independence being taken away once more is a tragic one and a concern for those who worked hard to save him.
After 50 years in captivity, with no other elephants to associate with, it was feared that Raju would not adapt to elephant life at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India, where he is a member of the Herd of Hope, a group of rescued elephants. Indeed, he had never been taught how to act like an elephant, as he had always lived among humans and been mistreated by humans. But Raju adjusted well to his new life, to the surprise of his caretakers.
Raju is eating well, enjoys cooling off whenever he likes in the pool available to him and spends his time with his fellow elephants. Medical care is available to him and helps his ongoing recovery. But he still has a lot to recover from, physically and mentally.
This elephant must not go back, as so much progress will be ruined if the courts allow Raju to be returned to his former abusive owner. Elephants live for approximately 70 years, and 50 years of his life has already been spent being subjected to inhumane treatment. Nikki Sharp, executive director of Wildlife SOS-USA, stated that Raju has perhaps 10 years left in him. Those years should be spent among his own kind, with proper food to eat and loving people to care for him.
This elephant must not be allowed to return to his abuser. Though Raju has been doing well, he still has a lot of work ahead of him regarding improving his physical and psychological health. It would be a cruel act to give him back to his previous owner.
Opinion by Jillian Moyet
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– Elephant May Be Forced Back to a Life in Chains