Vancouver PR firm joins campaign to keep India’s ‘crying elephant’ away from abusive owner (w/ gallery)

Published: September 2, 2014

raju-before-rescue-by-wsos

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Raju is pictured here shackled and emaciated before his rescue. Submitted photo.

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

A Vancouver-based public relations firm has joined an international campaign to keep an Indian elephant safe from an owner who kept it chained and severely abused it for nearly 50 years.

The previous owner of Raju — also known as the “crying elephant” as he was said to have shed “tears of joy” when he was finally rescued from decades of abuse and labour — has filed court papers in an attempt to get the animal back, according to Wildlife SOS, the agency that rescued the elephant in July.

Raju’s case goes before an Indian court Sept. 11, so Wildlife SOS is trying to collect 100,000 signatures in support of the elephant’s freedom.

Ruth Atherley of Vancouver’s AHA Creative Strategies Inc., who’s offered her services free of charge to help spread the word about the petition, initially heard of Raju’s heartbreaking story when his rescue made national headlines over the summer.

“He had tears when he was rescued and now he’s got this great life and there’s a chance that he could be given back to this,” Atherley said after hearing of the impending court case.

“I’m not letting this elephant go back to a life of torture … (he) has gone through enough.”

“People need to know that he’s at risk again.”

Atherley contacted Wildlife SOS to offer her services and has since been reaching out to friends, family, local and national media about the cause.

“Everybody should take a moment and step in when they can, and social media makes (the world) a much bigger place but a much smaller place,” she said. “In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a dog get abused in the elevator, we’ve seen what ALS can do on social media.”

“Everybody has a voice now — we might as a PR agency have a little stronger voice.”

According to Nikki Sharp with Wildlife SOS, the campaign for signatures is a way to show the Indian courts and government that “the world is watching.”

“It’s not as much about getting signatures as making sure that the authorities are aware that the world is watching this case and it would be a huge blight on the system and on the country to make a judgment that Raju goes back to this man,” said Sharp. “Him going back to this guy would be a death sentence to Raju.”

“He came to us barely alive … he was skeletal, he was emaciated, he was dehydrated, he had hundreds of wounds throughout his body.

“We were worried that he was going to die before we had a chance to rescue him.”

Raju has been kept safe and cared for at a Wildlife SOS conservation centre in India since July 4 and according to Sharp he’s gained 200 pounds, but “he’s still way underweight.”

To help keep Raju safe, visit wildlifesos.org where you can sign the petition, donate to the elephant legal fund, or email a letter in support of Raju to the Indian government.

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lcahute@theprovince.com
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