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An elephant shed tears after recently being freed after spending 50 years in captivity in India, thanks to a lengthy and emotional rescue operation organized by a wildlife conservation group.
Wildlife SOS India helped to free Raju the elephant in the early hours of July 4.
After being released from the chains and spikes that were holding him down, the makna bull elephant cried, according to Wildlife's co-founder Kartick Satyanaryan.
"It was a very emotional moment for all of us," Satyanaryan told CTV News Channel on Thursday, adding that the rescue process took hours to complete.
"We started walking with him at 6:30 p.m., trying to loosen his chains and it was almost impossible."
Satyanaryan said Wildlife SOS was initially tipped off about Raju's captivity by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, and it took one year for conservation officials to get the necessary permits required to initiate the rescue process.
"We had to initially send an undercover team to make sure that the owners, the people who had the elephant in custody, were not going to move him away," he said. "So we really had to keep tabs on the elephant."
When it was finally time to "swoop in" and rescue Raju, his owners enlisted the help of “hooligans” to block the rescue team, Satyanaryan said.
The elephant's owners also purposely agitated the animal, in order to confuse him and make him hostile to the people who were trying to help him.