Retired Circus Elephants in Maine

Joy Hollowell

Updated 1 year ago

The elephants have arrived in Hope.More than a year after veterinarian Dr. Jim Laurita first approached town leaders, Hope’s newest and largest residents to date are here.Joy Hollowell introduces us to Rosie and Opal.=====”We have a lot of lookie loos,” says Dr. Jim Laurita, referring to all the cars slowing down in front of his home.43-Year old Rosie and 41-year old Opal are who they’re trying to catch a glimpse of. Dr. Laurita has worked tirelessly the past year and a half to bring the retired cirus elephants to Hope, Maine. First getting the town’s approval, then building a more than 11-hundred square foot rehabilitation facility and paddock next to his home, and finally obtaining both state and federal licensing approval. Two weeks ago, the large ladies were loaded into a big rig and driven from Oklahoma, with Dr. Laurita tagging behind. The entourage arrived in Hope two days later.”That was the best day of their life, I would wager,” said Dr. Laurita.Dr. Laurita, Rosie and Opal go way back. The three first met in the early 70′s, when Jim and his brother Tom were jugglers in the Carson and Barnes Circus.”Rosie was orphaned and bottled raised,” says Dr. Laurita. “And so she came over at the same time at Opal.”Now, Rosie has nerve paralysis in her left shoulder. As a result, she puts too much weight on her right foot. Opal is believed to be suffering from some sort of wrist problem. Both will undergo rehabilitation at the Hope Elephants facility, including hydrotherapy, Accupressure and ultrasound. In addition, the elephants were serve as ambassadors to help educate the community, particularly young ones about conservation. Dr. Laurita plans to work closely with area schools on developing curriculum based programs. Fund raising is now underway to build an Education Center on the ground, with interactive exhibits for kids. Hope Elephants hopes to have it completed by Christmas.Dr. Laurita says he’s overwhelmed by the community’s support. He says Johnny Seeds in Winslow is working with them on a garden next spring across the street from the facility, which will help feed the elephants. “Hope Orchards has donated tons of apples because these girls go through about 10 pounds of fruit and vegetables each day.”That’s in addition to three bales of hay, elephant chow and lots of water. It’s been a long road getting here, but well worth the wait, says Dr. Laurita.”I came in the other night. They were leaning up against each other, just swaying back and forth and they had their trunks wrapped around the other guy’s back leg. Just to see them here, it’s not hard to smile.”++++Hope Elephants does not allow walk up visitors. Anyone wanting to meet Rosie and Opal must sign up in advance. For more information on that as well as school programs, volunteering or donating, you can call 619-4801 or log onto hope elephants dot org.They also have a Facebook page.


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