These incredible pictures show the moment an elephant who was held in chains and beaten and abused for fifty years cried as he was released to freedom.
Raju the elephant was left bleeding from spiked shackles and living on hand-outs from passing tourists after he was captured and tied up by his 'owner'.
But, after 50 years of torture, the animal cried tears of relief after he was rescued by a wildlife charity in a daring midnight operation -- fittingly on American Independence Day.
North London-based charity Wildlife SOS stepped in to save Raju from dying in his bonds after learning of his plight in India.
Every day, the majestic animal was forced to hold out his trunk and beg for a few coins from passers-by -- surviving only on plastic and paper for food.
However, last week, a 10-strong team of vets and wildlife experts from the charity were joined by 20 forestry department officers and six policemen to seize Raju from his suffering in the Uttar Pradesh area of India.
The mission took place under the cover of darkness, as fewer people would be around for the dangerous rescue and the animal could be protected from the searing heat of the sun.
Pooja Binepal, the charity's UK spokesman, described the rescue as 'incredibly emotional' for the team.
She said: 'Raju has spent the past 50 years living a pitiful existence in chains 24 hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty.
'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.
'Until we stepped in he'd never known what it is like to walk free of his shackles -- it's a truly pitiful case.
'But today he knows what freedom is and he will learn what kindness feels like and what it's like to not suffer any more.'
The daring rescue came exactly a year to the day since the charity was alerted to Raju's plight by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department in India.
A confiscation process went through the courts as Raju's owner did not have any legal documents for his possession meaning the charity could rescue him from suffering.
It is not known exactly how Raju came into his plight, as little is known about his early years, but the charity believes he was poached from his mother as a young calf.
Ms Binepal said: 'The poachers either slaughter the mother, or they drive the herd into traps that are small enough only for the babies to fall into. The mother cries for her baby for days after he's been stolen -- it is a sickening trade.
'The calves are then tied and beaten until they submit to their owners -- their spirits are effectively broken.
'We discovered Raju's case was particularly tragic.
'He'd been poached as a calf and then he has been sold on and sold on. Incredibly we believe he has had up to 27 owners -- he's been treated as a commodity every two years of his life.
'By the time we found him in July 2013 he was in a pathetic condition. He had no shelter at night, and was being used as a prop to beg from dawn until dusk from tourists visiting the sites of India.
'He hasn't been fed properly and tourists started giving him sweet food items and because he was in a state of hunger and exhaustion he began eating plastic and paper.
'His nails are severely overgrown, he has abscesses and wounds because of the shackles and continually walking on a tarmac road has led to his foot pad overgrowing.'
Once the court order was finally issued, a team led by Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan carried out two days of surveillance before launching the rescue.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'As we watched we quickly realised we had to act as quickly as possible as his situation was so desperate and the cruelty so extreme so we decided to move the rescue forward by a day.
'The chains around his legs had spikes which were cutting into his flesh -- and each time he moved puss would ooze out of wounds. Pain and brutality were all he knew.
'His cruel handler even tore out the hair from his tail to sell as good luck charms. The exploitation and abuse just had to stop.'
However, even on Thursday evening as the mercy mission began, Raju's owner tried to prevent his rescue.
Mr Satyanarayan said: 'He began to shout commands to terrify Raju -- and try to provoke him.
'It created an incredibly dangerous situation as a bull elephant could snap a human like a tooth pick if he becomes afraid or angry.
Music : Rains will fall by Kevin MacLeod
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