Raju, ‘The Crying Elephant’, Celebrates 10 Years Of Freedom

Awareness about Raju’s exploitation went on to create a turning point for the way elephants were cared for.

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(Images: Wildlife SOS)

New Delhi: Globally renowned elephant Raju, who resides at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital has been a symbol of hope for elephant conservation in India. With his past story being spread far and wide around the globe, the organisation recognises his impact on elephant welfare issues, while marking a decade of his freedom.

Raju, a 60-year-old male elephant residing at the Elephant Hospital in Mathura, has been a cornerstone for elephant welfare and conservation. Awareness about Raju’s exploitation went on to create a turning point for the way elephants were cared for. There were several developments over the years worth noting that reflect the shifting landscape for elephants in India.

When Raju arrived at Wildlife SOS in 2014, there were nearly 70 elephants estimated to be still active in circuses in India. Today, all performing animals are banned from circuses and that includes elephants. At the time of Raju’s rescue, elephants were seen roaming the streets of Delhi, being hired for wedding ceremonies and processions. Five years later, by 2019, all elephants had been removed from the capital with the last one, Jasmine, coming to live at Wildlife SOS.

Raju’s rescue also helped expose the grim reality of tourist rides and the associated elephant abuse. With it, Wildlife SOS was able to strengthen the message of its campaign ‘Refuse To Ride’.

Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS said, “The image of tears rolling down Raju’s eyes during his rescue a decade ago is still fresh in our memories. Jumping 10 years ahead, he is now no less than a family member who has been loved by all, from all the staff members to the caregivers, veterinarians and even the visitors.”

Geeta Seshamani, Co-founder and Secretary, Wildlife SOS expressed, “It’s hard to put into words exactly why Raju touched so many lives across countries. I think it was the first time the suffering of a captive elephant was so visibly exposed to the world, and Raju, being such an emotional elephant, made an immediate connection with everyone. To see such a magnificent creature bowed down by chains, hobbled with spiked anklets, and bearing countless ankush wounds was truly heartbreaking.”

Baiju Raj M.V, Director- Conservation Projects, Wildlife SOS said, “Raju’s rescue demonstrated that our mission to care for distressed elephants is a real and actionable promise. It showed that we gave it our all in the operation. Each elephant that comes to us from such situations is an individual with deep emotions as well as physical injuries. Helping Raju recover was an incredibly emotional journey for all of us.”