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An elephant that was kept in chains for 50 years and abused by a drug addict who used the animal beg in India has been freed. Raju had been beaten and starved since being poached from the wild as a baby and resorted to eating paper and plastic to fill his stomach. The chains and spikes wrapped around his legs had left him with chronic wounds and arthritis and he was in almost constant pain. But now he is walking free for the first time after a daring rescue by conservationists with a court order by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department to take the elephant from his abusive owner.

The charity took Raju in the middle of the night on Thursday, supported by police and state officials. The elephant’s mahout and previous owner tried to stop him being taken by adding more chains and having people block the roads for the rescue lorry. Experts worked for hours to gain the elephant’s trust with fruit and encouragement until they could get him into the van that would take him to a sanctuary.

When Raju was being rescued, volunteers said they saw tears rolling down his face. Pooja Binepal, from Wildlife SOS UK, said: “The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. “We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed. “Elephants are not only majestic, but they are highly intelligent animals, who have been proven to have feelings of grief, so we can only imagine what torture half a century has been like for him.”

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