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Abused Elephant Weeps after Finally Being Rescued [VIDEO]

Jul 08, 2014 02:08 PM EDT

An elephant broke down in tears while a midnight rescue team freed the long-abused elephant last week, finally cutting away its painful shackles after 50 years of mistreatment and malnourishment.

All his life the elephant, named Raju, was beaten, starved and used as a profitable tourist attraction among the streets of India. He survived by begging for handouts and even eating plastic and paper.

A year after learning of Raju's dire situation, a team led by the UK-based animal charity, Wildlife SOS, intervened to liberate the poor animal from its cruel keeper. Fittingly, the rescue mission took place on Friday, Independence Day.

Incredibly, as the team was removing the sharp chains that had held him captive for 50 years, Raju began to cry.

"Raju was in chains 24 hours a day, an act of ­intolerable cruelty. The team was astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue," Pooja Binepal of Wildlife SOS told The Mirror.

"It was incredibly emotional. We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed. Elephants are majestic and highly intelligent animals. We can only imagine what torture the past half a century has been for him."

The rescue was part of a coordinated effort between the Wildlife SOS team and local authorities after a year-long legal process concluded, which was working to liberate Raju. Officials believe Raju was abducted from his mother as a young calf, and abused by his owners ever since.

The Dodo said the person who was responsible for holding the animal captive, known as a ­mahout, even attempted to thwart the team's efforts by shouting at the elephant to scare him. But, the team knew Raju would die if they did not save him.

The five-and-a-half-ton elephant was eventually loaded onto a truck, and under the care of veterinarians, transported to Wildlife SOS's Elephant Conservation and Care Centre 350 miles away in Mathura to begin his physical and emotional healing process.

He will spend the rest of his life in the safe sanctuary among other elephants who have also suffering from abuse, and his shackles will go on display in a local museum to raise awareness about the vile trade.

"Until we stepped in he'd never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles," Binepal said. "But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like."

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