Gajraj, the elephant who has spent most of his life shackled in a temple now takes his first steps without chains. He was suffering from painful abscesses and partial blindness before he was rescued. He was a tourist attraction at a temple in Satara, with the tips of his tusks hacked off and open sores where chains were clamped around his legs for decades.
Temple elephants are captive animals that have been poached at a young age and forced to remain at places of worship to take offerings and entertain tourists.
Gajraj was captures from the wild as a calf, beaten into submission and has been chained in one spot at the Yami Deviu Hindu temple in Aundh, Maharashtra for 58 years.
His owner, the Queen of Aundh, had been persuaded to surrender him, but still the ‘Gajraj freedom team’ of 12 - vets, drivers, mechanics and handlers - needed police protection when they arrived on Wednesday. At first, villagers turned out to bid him farewell, but the atmosphere quickly turned nasty.
A crowd of 500 tried to block his path, attacking the team with rocks and stones.
He will now receive specialist geriatric care for the rest of his days. Since his rescue, he has been enjoying dust baths and gorging on fruits after being taken to a new home in Mathura, India.
Gajraj was rescued and taken to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Care & Conservation Center, where volunteers filmed the moment he arrived - and stuck his trunk out the top of the truck for a sniff of his new home, before tentatively stepping out.
He enjoyed a relaxing dust bath moments after his first ever free steps without chains shackled around his legs.
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