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WILDLIFE SOS CELEBRATES RAJU THE ELEPHANT'S FIRST YEAR OF FREEDOM AND ASKS AMERICANS TO HELP THE THOUSANDS OF CAPTIVE AND ABUSED ELEPHANTS IN INDIA

SALT LAKE CITY, July 1, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On a mission to protect endangered and threatened animals, Wildlife SOS celebrates the one-year anniversary of Raju the elephant's freedom. A gentle giant, standing nearly 11 feet tall and weighing 7,400 lbs., Raju, an Asian elephant, had spent his entire 50-year life beaten into submission and exploited for financial gain. Tears streamed from his eyes when his spiked chains were removed on July 4th, 2014. Thanks to supporters worldwide, he has since found love and proper medical and nutritional care among The Herd of Hope at The Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India. To mark the occasion, 250 customized Tibetan Prayer flags are being flown in Raju's enclosure and an elephant walking path has been christened "Raju's Freedom Trail."

"Raju has come so far over the past year, and we credit much of this growth to his incredible capacity to forgive the reprehensible treatment he suffered for 50 years," said Nikki Sharp, Wildlife SOS USA executive director. "While Americans celebrate their freedoms this time of year, we hope this is also a time of reflection. Raju's story has a happy ending, however there are still thousands of Asian elephants chained, abused, and in need of rescue. We want his story to inspire and compel supporters to get involved and help save these amazing and endangered creatures."

"Raju's new found freedom has granted him a life with a comfortable place to sleep, plentiful amounts of food, a pool for fun and relaxation and dedicated mahouts who care for him 24-hours a day," said Geeta Seshamani, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS. "Raju has also formed new friendships among The Herd of Hope especially with 'the munchkin' female elephants Laxmi, Bijli and Chanchal."

While Raju's life is vastly improved, his horrific start at life plagues him daily. He continues to be very wary of people and suffers from several chronic injuries that went untreated for many years.

"The biggest challenge that Raju faces is simply learning how to be an elephant," said Steve Koyle, Wildlife SOS volunteer and elephant keeper at the Phoenix Zoo. "He's been told what to do, beaten and neglected for so many years. Now, Raju has the option of swimming, dusting, scratching, foraging and sleeping on big dirt beds under the stars. He now has the freedom of choice."

Unfortunately, an elephant suffering the way Raju did prior to rescue is not uncommon in India. There are approximately 2,000-3,000 elephants that are chained and abused every day. Many of these elephants are stolen from their mothers as babies and then, once beaten into submission, are exploited as begging elephants or temple elephants.

"The demand for captive elephants in India and other countries is causing Asian elephants' population to dwindle," said Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-Founder of Wildlife SOS. "We all need to take action now in order to save these animals. There is no time to lose!"

To get involved and help the thousands of Rajus who have not yet been given freedom:

  • Donate to Raju's Rescue Fund by visiting http://wildlifesos.org/raju. All funds will be used to help rescue and care for abused elephants in India.
  • Text 'wild' to 51555 to receive text message updates on Wildlife SOS' efforts.
  • Whether at home or abroad, never ride an elephant.





For more information about Raju and Wildlife SOS, visit wildlifesos.org or facebook.com/WildlifeSOS.

About Wildlife SOS Wildlife SOS was founded in 1998 by Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani to protect India's incredible wildlife from habitat loss and unsustainable exploitation. While on a speaking tour in the U.S., they inspired the creation of Wildlife SOS USA in 2005 as a 501c3 charity that works to engage Americans in the cause of protecting India's incredible wildlife.

Photos accompanying this release are available at:

http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=34208

http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=34209

CONTACT: Heather Wilkins (714-926-5230) / press@wildlifesos.org Suvidha Bhatnagar (+91 9717544034) / suvidha@wildlifesos.orgSource:wildlifesos.org(Wildlife SOS)