By Mark Molloy
Raju spent half a century being beaten and abused before an animal rescue charity in India gave the elephant his freedom
An orphaned elephant that spent half a century in chains is enjoying his freedom after meeting his adoptive family for the first time.
Raju the Indian elephant was subjected to daily beatings and repeatedly sold by cruel owners before being rescued on July 4.
He has now joined five welcoming female elephants at the Wildlife SOS's Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India.
SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan said Raju “didn’t even know how to be an elephant” after years of abuse.
Heart-warming pictures released by the charity show Raju relaxing with his new friends at the centre in Mathura, northern India.
All the elephants were rescued from a life of suffering and they have now been named the Herd of Hope.
“Raju had been so terribly brutalized for 50 years that we feared he'd be unable to live with his own kind,” Mr Satyanarayan explained.
“When we first released him, he held back and he was clearly wary.
“Three of our female elephants Laxmi, Chanchal and Sai Geeta ran up to him – their ears flapping wildly –a sign they were excited and delighted to meet him.
“They also made high-pitched trumpeting sounds – a greeting. it's like he's always been with them.”
He added: "It was incredibly touching after all he'd been through."
The animal charity hopes to raise £20,000 to mark World Elephant Day on August 12 and help save more vulnerable animals.
Raju’s story has seen scores of people already make donations to SOS.
"He still faces years of treatment to heal both the physical and psychological wounds. And sadly he's not alone," added Mr Satyanarayan.
"We have a dossier of 80 elephants whose life is in imminent peril and they also need to be rescued before they die of cruelty, exhaustion and abuse.”