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Are Raju The Elephant's Tears Of Joy The Real Deal?

The elephant had reportedly been held captive by a drug dealer in India before he was freed by wildlife charity group Wildlife SOS UK on Thursday.

By Danny Matteson | July 7, 2014

Elephants are well known for their intelligence and excellent memories, but here’s another trait that may surprise you — they apparently also cry in emotional situations. (Via Getty Images)

Take this story for example. According to the Daily Mail an elephant held for decades in painful, spiked chains reportedly teared up after being freed from captivity.  

"After 50 years of being abused and held in chains, Raju the elephant cried tears of joy when he was rescued by a wildlife charity." (Via Al Jazeera)  

"The elephant had been chained up and living off handouts from tourists for the last half a century. … After taking him off his chains they noticed Raju had tears rolling down his face." (Via WDIV

As International Business Times reports, Raju had been held captive by a drug dealer in Uttar Pradesh, India, before he was freed by wildlife charity group Wildlife SOS UK on Thursday.

The outlet quotes a member of the group saying, "[We] were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue. It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realised he was being freed.”

We’d be the first to admit it makes for a lovely story, but are elephant tears the real deal? Turns out they could be.

Researchers are still looking into the phenomenon, but speaking to LiveScience, University of Colorado-Boulder Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Marc Beckoff says, "Available information supports the view that other animals do cry and weep and that they can be closely associated with various emotions, including, perhaps most likely, sadness and grief."

Similarly, the BBC reported on a young elephant that appeared to grieve after seeing her mother killed.

“Elephants are just like children, they all react differently. She might take months or even years to recover from the sadness and the trauma.”

And other animals might experience similar emotions.

Barbara King, an anthropologist and author of the book “How Animals Grieve” told the Los Angeles Times, "Baboon, elephant, dolphin, dog and house cat survivors ... may withdraw from social relationships, fail to eat or sleep properly, and/or express highly unusual body language, vocalizations or gestures in the days and weeks after a relative or friend's death."

Researchers do note that animal tears may be more hard-wired than emotional, but if Raju's tears are the real thing, we doubt he'll be tearing up again anytime soon. He's reportedly been taken to an animal sanctuary in Northern India where a charity campaign has been launched to help him live out the rest of his days in comfort. 

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