This was Raju a week ago. His life may look festive and fun—he was a begging elephant, used to give "blessings" to people who paid his owner—but the bright colors and décor masked his dark past: For 50 years, Raju was kept in spikes and left without food or shelter. Until, last weekend, when he was rescued.
His reaction to being rescued is what made his story spread: "The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue," Pooja Binepal of Wildlife SOS said. It was as if Raju knew he would finally be free.
Now, Raju's shackles are off and he's living in India's "first and only chain free elephant care center," where he has access to a water pool, a roof over his head, and plenty of fruit to eat. For the record, he loves mangos.
"Raju is taking his time to adjust to his new circumstances," Wildlife SOS says. "It appears like he is completely unused to not having chains on his feet. The deep scars on his feet tell us that he has never had a day without chains!"
"It will take him some months to get used to his newfound freedom as he only expects pain and abuse," they continue. "[But] we are confident that he will soon recover and have a healthy and happy life ahead—something that he deserved a long time ago!"
Raju will also finally meet other elephants. There are seven others in the sanctuary, and they all apparently woke up to greet Raju when he arrived in the night. Here he is meeting one of those elephants, Phoolkali.
And it seems like there might be some chemistry between the two. "Here a curious Phoolkali meanders over to share an evening snack with Raju," the photo is captioned. Just look at Raju's smile!