Abusive elephant owner tries to get Raju back
Pachyderm that cried when rescued in July after 50 years of abuse is reportedly subject of legal action by former owner attempting to regain custody
Raju, the elephant that gained worldwide fame after crying when it was rescued in July after enduring 50 years of abuse, is now facing the unthinkable—a return to its previous owner.
The abusive elephant owner, identified as Mr. Shahid, has taken legal action in an attempt to regain custody of Raju, according to the group that organized the nighttime rescue of the animal in the Uttar Pradesh area of India.
Wildlife SOS of New Delhi, India, announced on Facebook that “the same cruel person who abused Raju and held him in illegal custody has approached the Allahabad court seeking custody of him. Basically, he wants to put Raju back in chains.”
Raju, believed to have been poached from his mother as a baby, was beaten and left bleeding from painful spiked leg shackles by the abusive owner who had the elephant beg for handouts and survive by eating plastic and paper for food.
The owner also tore out hair from Raju’s tail to sell as good luck charms, Wildlife S.O.S. founder Kartick Satyanarayan told the U.K. MailOnline.
Wildlife SOS posted a petition to the government of Uttar Pradesh to ensure Raju is not taken away from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center at Mathura where he was able to walk free from cruelty for the first time in 50 years. The petition also asks that Mr. Shahid be punished.
“We are disheartened to learn we have to fight once again for Rahu’s freedom,” Satyanarayan told the New York Daily News. “We sincerely hope the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the courts prosecute Mr. Shahid for his illegal act and find him guilty.”
Chief wildlife warden of the state Rupak De told The Times of India on Saturday, “Necessary action has been initiated and the law will take its course. Raju is in safe hands with Wildlife SOS. The forest department will make sure justice prevails.”
It would seem unlikely that Mr. Shahid would prevail in regaining custody of Raju since Wildlife SOS led a team of 10 veterinarians and wildlife officials, 20 forestry department officers, and six policemen in rescuing the elephant after receiving a court order.
But Wildlife SOS is not taking any chances.
“There is no explanation we can give you that makes any sense,” Wildlife SOS said on Facebook. “Unfortunately, although the situation is idiotic and this man is a criminal, we are having to take action. We cannot ignore this threat. If we do, we are risking Raju’s freedom. We can’t imagine this man winning… but then again, we couldn’t imagine that he would take the outrageous action to try and legally get Raju [back].”
Yaduraj Khadpekar, the veterinarian treating Raju, told The Times of India that Raju still needs years of treatment for physical and psychological wounds.
“The thought that he may have to leave all this behind if his owner gets his way is heart-breaking,” Khadpekar told The Times. “We want him to spend the rest of his life with some dignity, free from suffering and pain.”
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