This heartbreaking story is about as elephant Raju from India that had an incredibly rough life. After being poached from his mother he was thrown from one owner to another, until he was left living in terrible conditions with no shelter at night, being used as a beggars prop all day long. Raju survived only from passing tourists and sometimes had to eat plastic and paper while being chained 24 hours a day. A wildlife organisation SOS-UK could not stand the injustice and decided to save him in a daring midnight rescue operation.

The elephant, realizing he was being saved, started to cry: “It was incredibly emotional. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed” – claims Pooja Binepal, one of the rescuers in an interview with Presspeople. “Tears began to roll down Raju’s face. Some no doubt were due to the pain but he also seemed to sense that change was coming. He felt hope for the first time” – says another rescuer Kartick.

More info: wildlifesos.org (h/t: presspeople, buzzfeed)

Raju spent his whole life in captivity entertaining tourists and guests of his owner. After realizing that his suffering will soon be over he cried tears of joy.

Elephants have a very large hippocampus, a brain structure linked to emotion which is much bigger than that of any human. While we are not 100% certain, scientific research supports the view that elephants weep as part of an emotional response.

He spent 50 years being shackled in chains, sometimes having to eat plastic and paper to fill his stomach.

Thankfully, after long years of suffering Raju was saved in a courageous midnight rescue operation by Wildlife SOS UK.

Raju’s owner tried to prevent the rescue, putting chains on his legs and shouting commands to terrify him. But the rescuers stood their ground. As they did, tears began to roll down Raju’s face. “He felt hope for the first time”, says Kartrick.

The chains were so tightly wrapped that it took 45 minutes to liberate him.

Raju was driven to the sanctuary by brave rescuers 350 miles to the charity’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura.

The elephant was so exhausted he could barely move.

Raju took his first steps of freedom at one minute past midnight on July 4, finally tasting what independence feels like.

The charity is certain that Raju will spend the rest of his life free from suffering.

Wildlife SOS UK is trying to raise  £10,000 to help start Raju’s new life. To contribute visit wildlifesos.org