Three elephants temporarily escaped from the Shrine Circus after they were reportedly spooked by loud noises. Reuters

An elephant broke down in tears after its chains were cut off, Metro.co.uk reported Monday. The pachyderm had been shackled in spiked chains for 50 years before an overnight rescue team was able to set the animal free.

For years, the elephant, whose name is Raju, was beaten and starved. Raju would beg for food and at times forced to eat plastic to fill its empty stomach on the street of India.

Luckily, Raju was freed one minute into the Fourth of July by London-based charity Wildlife SOS. The team believed he could have died if he weren’t saved, the news site wrote.

Buzzfeed said the person who was responsible for holding Raju captive tried to frighten the animal during the escape. Though the team was afraid Raju would scare, they worked diligently to free the animal.

As the team began to save him, they said tears rolled down Raju’s face. “Raju has spent the past 50 years living a pitiful existence in chains 24 hours a day, an act of intolerable cruelty," said Pooja Binepal, the charity’s U.K. spokeswoman, according to the Mirror,

“The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue,” she said. “It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed.”

The five-and-a-half-ton elephant was sedated and then loaded on an open truck and driven 350 miles to the charity’s Elephant Conservation and Care Centre at Mathura, the Mirror added.

“He took his first step to freedom at one minute past midnight on July 4, U.S. ­independence day. It felt fitting,” Wildlife SOS founder Kartick Satyanarayan told the news site. “The other elephants in the sanctuary woke up as we pulled in and came to have a look. It was an extraordinary moment.”

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