Gajraj the elephant’s heartbreaking story began when humans likely abducted him from his forest home as a 12-year-old in 1965. He was then forced to travel for a month and a half to Aundh village in Maharashtra, India, where he lived for over 50 years in chains.

Tourists paid to see him day after day until he became too sick and old to beg for money. He was then left chained and alone on the same concrete slab day after day. Gajraj was living a nightmare: Video shows him swaying back and forth and bobbing his head—behavior indicating severe stress.

The hard patch of concrete that he was confined to caused painful pus-filled sores on his hindquarters and elbows, and his living area reeked of feces and urine.

But then something wonderful happened …

PETA India and international PETA affiliates learned about Gajraj’s neglect and started a #FreeGajraj campaign. More than 200,000 supporters spoke out and demanded his release, and he has finally been released from his chains!

He’s now on his way to the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura—a collaborative project of Wildlife SOS, and the Uttar Pradesh Forest and Wildlife Department—to receive vital veterinary treatment and begin his integration into the company of fellow elephants after more than half a century alone. He was rescued by the Maharashtra Forest Department today and is being accompanied to the ECCC by an expert veterinary team, and PETA has paid for his new home and other costs.

But his rescue was not easy. Hundreds of misguided local villagers protested, and his mahout (handler) and some protesters even threatened mass suicide!

Stay tuned for more updates on Gajraj’s progress.

Help Elephants Like Gajraj

Elephants in the wild live in herds and are active for 18 hours a day, foraging, playing, bathing in rivers, and traveling long distances. But elephants in captivity are denied the opportunity to roam vast distances and often suffer from foot problems and arthritis because of long periods spent standing on hard surfaces. They can develop neurotic and self-harming behavior, and many die prematurely. Elephants used for rides are typically torn away from their mothers at a young age and beaten into submission out of the public’s view.

You can help them by never riding an elephant or participating in any activity that uses elephants for profit.

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