4 Elephants Rescued In 'Dark Hours Of The Night' From Abusive Circus

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In what is being called the biggest elephant rescue operation ever in India, four elephants were shuttled out of the clutches of an "abusive" circus late Monday night.

Wildlife SOS

The elephants, referred to as the "Nut Herd" because of their names - Peanut, 6; Coconut, 12; Macadamia, 18; and Walnut, 22 - are currently on the road to a sanctuary. A court ordered their release from the notorious Moonlight Circus in Maharashtra. According to local news reports, two officials associated with the circus were arrested for cruelty to animals. Last month, the circus was raided by police for human trafficking and alleged rape; the owner of the circus was arrested.

Wildlife SOS

Wildlife SOS, the group that rescued the elephants "in the dark hours of the night," has been monitoring the animals since August 2014 to determine which ones were in most need of rescue. "The elephants in this circus were a priority because they were in terrible distress," said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of the organization.

According to the group, the elephants were subject to extreme abuse. The elephants' front and back legs were restrained by their owner when they weren't performing. Furthermore, the groups says they were left standing in their own urine and excrement. Unfortunately, because of their inadequate veterinary care, lack of exercise and substandard diet, the four elephants are in poor mental and physical health.

Wildlife SOS

Wildlife SOS coordinated the rescue operation as part of its new, ambitious campaign to rescue every circus elephant in India. Its first rescue was a blind female circus elephant named Suzy, who was saved in February.

With the Nut Herd officially free, there are now 64 elephants left in circuses in India, says the group.

A 10-member team from Wildlife SOS saved the animals and they are currently en route to Pune, where they will take some time to "recuperate" from their experience before settling in at their final destination. Most likely it will be Wildlife SOS' Elephant Rescue Center, Suvidha Bhatnagar, the communications director for Wildlife SOS in Delhi, told The Dodo.

Wildlife SOS

The center is currently home to the famous elephant Raju, who is known across the world as "the crying elephant" because he "wept" when Wildlife SOS freed him after 50 years in chains. In a heartbreaking twist, Raju's childhood friend, Mohan, is currently the focus of another campaign by Wildlife SOS: Mohan, like Raju, has also been in chains for 50 years. A judge in India has ordered a veterinary examination of Mohan on April 22. "Mohan is under the watchful eyes of our team members," says Bhatnagar, "and we will not leave without taking him along."

To donate to Wildlife SOS's efforts, go here.