Monday, 14 July 2014 | MYT 3:45 PM

Cry freedom: 6 amazing videos of animal emancipation

There are no words to describe the joy of captive animals tasting freedom — these videos say it all.

The story of Raju, the Indian elephant that cried when he was freed from his spiked shackles and chains after 50 years, went viral last week. Taken by force from his mother when he was a calf, Raju had 27 owners who mistreated and abused him, using him to beg for coins from tourists. Often, Raju had to eat plastic and paper garbage to fill his empty stomach.

While some may think that animals have no feelings, the image of tears streaming down Raju’s face as he is rescued by Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh Forestry Department highlights the total opposite. Animals do have feelings and suffer the same amount of pain and distress as humans do behind bars. Yet, sadly, Raju’s story is one that afflicts untold thousands of animals kept in captivity all around the world.

Raju, the elephant, seen with tears streaming down his face during his night rescue operation. After 50 years of shackles and chains, Raju is now in a sanctuary receiving more humane treatment.

A fortunate few, like Raju, get to taste freedom. Their stories and the elation of their emancipation, seen in the videos below, will move you to tears.

Retired lab chimps hug at seeing the sky

This 2011 video shows a troop of chimpanzees whooping and hugging each other as they are released into their very own enclosure at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest on a 10.5-hectare farm located 144km outside of Seattle. Walking on real earth and able to move freely for the first time after 40 years in laboratory cages, the seven chimps — Annie, Burrito, Foxie, Jamie, Jody, Missy and Negra — will never be able to return to their natural habitat simply because they lack the right survival skills, but at least they can live out the rest of their lives where they can see the sky.

Lab beagles run on grass for first time

Earlier in May this year, the Beagle Freedom Project — a US non-profit organisation that rescues and advocates against the use of beagles in lab testing – shared a video that went viral. The video shows nine beagles, rescued from a Nevada lab, being let out to play in a suburban backyard for the first time in their lives. The dogs never had proper names or even felt grass under their paws prior to the day the video was shot. But their reaction to life beyond the cage was instant. After a few brief seconds of hesitation, instinct kicked in and the beagles were no longer lab slaves but running around, wagging their tails, and behaving the way only dogs know how.

Amur tigress’ furious leap to freedom

When Zolushka (Russian for ‘Cinderella’) was found in 2012, the Amur tigress was only six months old, weak and hungry, her mother likely killed by poachers. Critically endangered, Amur tigers number less than 400 in the wild and conservationists made Zolushka their top priority. Working with partners in Russia’s far east, the International Fund for Animal Welfare reared Zolushka until the day of her release on Feb 25, 2013. Watch Zoluska pace angrily in her transport box as handlers anxiously try to make the release mechanism work. Finally, as the door opens, the beautiful Zolushka makes a furious dash and leaps to freedom.

Keiko, the orca, returns to the sea

Undoubtedly the most famous and dramatic animal liberation story belongs to Keiko, the orca (or killer whale) who captured the world’s imagination as the star of Free Willy, the 1993 film about a boy who befriends an orca and leads it to freedom. Keiko’s role in the film prompted a successful public campaign that led to US$7mil (RM22.3mil) operation to return him to the sea. On Sep 9, 1998, after more than two years of planning, Keiko finally returned to Iceland where he was captured 19 years before — becoming the first captive orca to be released back into the wild. Even though he never fully integrated to life in the wild before his death of viral pneumonia in 2003, at least Keiko was free.

Orang utan smiles in his new home

This ending of this undated short clip of an orang utan named Boyran on the day of his release deep inside the jungle is priceless. (It’s narrated in German but you can turn on the English subtitles.) As Boyran cautiously emerges from his transport box, he takes a look around him. And then an amazing thing happens as Boyran realises where he is — he smiles.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Features , Environment , Nature , Animal , Wildlife , freedom , liberty , emancipation , release , video , videos , YouTube , Raju the elephant , chimpanzee , beagle , Keiko , orca , killer whale , Free Willy , Zolushka , Amur tiger , orang utan


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