After 53 years of being forced to perform in a circus, Rhea the elephant has finally been rescued.
Most likely torn from her family at a very young age, her life as a young elephant was spent "being beaten into submission, punished regularly and deprived of food and water," according to Wildlife S.O.S. India's blog.
Like most elephants in the circus, her life was spent in a tiny cage and she was chained, beaten and forced to perform unnatural tricks for those who paid money to watch as she suffered in silence, according to Wildlife S.O.S.
Her only sources of hope were Mia and Sita, two other "sister" elephants facing the same fate, according to the organization. The three elephants formed a bond that allowed them to get through their years of suffering together.
"In the wild, elephants live in groups known as herds, and their high intelligence and sensitivity allow for the development of some of the most powerful, heart-warming familial bonds in the animal world," the blog stated.
While Wildlife S.O.S. was able to secure freedom for Mia and Sita in November 2015, the group lacked the necessary paperwork to permit Rhea to leave at the time. "It broke our hearts to leave Rhea behind, but we always knew we'd come back for her, and fight with all our strength to get her freed too," the blog post said.
Rhea's years of neglect left her body broken. Her nails had cracked, her feet were swollen and she was in constant pain. She limps. Her frame is gaunt. She has spent her life not only starved of nutrition, but of love. Now the time has come for a much better life.
Wildlife S.O.S. is making good on its promise to her.
Wildlife S.O.S. returned to Tamil Nadu in India this month, and Rhea was loaded into a rescue truck. She is now on her way to start the life she deserves.
Rhea will finally receive the medical attention she needs along with the love she craves and deserves. She will be reunited with her "sisters" so she can be back with a herd that will love and care for her.
You can continue to follow Rhea's journey home on the Wildlife S.O.S. Facebook page:
If you would like to help with Rhea's recovery, you can donate here.
Watch Rhea being loaded into the truck that is taking her home: