Gajraj enters the Wildlife SOS elephant ambulance. Photo: Hindustan Times
Gajraj enters the Wildlife SOS elephant ambulance. Photo: Hindustan Times

An elephant that was chained up at tourist spots for nearly 50 years has been freed.

After a global call to #FreeGajraj from several conservation groups led by PETA India, the ailing and lonely pachyderm has been sent to an elephant rehabilitation center in Mathura. Maharashtra forest department decided to rescue Gajraj after over 200,000 supporters advocated for his release, the Times of India reported.

Earlier this year, Maharashtra government-appointed veterinarians examined the animal and found him to be weak, stressed and suffering from abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows because he had not been properly cared for by his custodian.

Gajraj will now be able to roam, bathe in ponds and live in the company of other elephants at the center.

Gajraj was taken from the wild in 1965 and served as a temple elephant with a royal family in Maharashtra. The Hindustan Times reported that Gajraj was brought to the royal family of Aundh, Satara, at the age of 12 as a gift to the queen at her wedding. He was made to travel 800km from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, to Satara, Maharashtra, which took almost six weeks.

The elderly elephant then spent decades chained up at Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi Temple in Aundh, Satara, Gajraj.

Numerous celebrities, including Jacqueline Fernandez, Athiya Shetty, Suniel Shetty, Sunny Leone, Sidharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha voiced support for the #FreeGajraj campaign.