It was one year ago Sunday the town of Hope made history.
Two Asian elephants arrived at their new home on Hatchett Road.
As Joy Hollowell shows us, a lot has happened since Rosie and Opal came to town.
Rosie and Opal barely blink an eye as a crowd watches their morning routine. Since the girls arrived one year ago, more than 15,000 visitors have gotten an eyeful of elephant, including 7,000 school kids.
“One year later, we’re really happy with the way things have gone,” says Dr. Jim Laurita.
It’s the fulfillment of a promise made decades ago by Laurita. He and his brother Tom worked with Rosie and Opal in the circus. When Jim learned the pachyderms had permanent injuries, he set out to bring them to Maine. Last October, the animals left their residence in Hugo, Oklahoma for a two-day journey to Hope.
Laurita’s plan was two-fold- give the elephants the therapy they need to be more comfortable, and give visitors a rare opportunity to learn first hand about this endangered species.
“You’ll note that her front left leg, see how stiff that is?” explains Neil Delehey with Hope Elephants, pointing to Rosie. “That’s her bad leg. However, look at that motion. We’ve increased the motion of that leg by 35% since her arrival in October.”
And, something else changed this year too. In the wild, Rosie would be considered the matriarch because she’s the oldest. That wasn’t the case when they first arrived, since Rosie was weaker than Opal.
“Well, Rosie with her improvement in everything, I think finally said – well, wait a minute, why does she get everything first?” says Laurita. “And so there was a little pushing and shoving and there’s been a change in leadership and Rosie’s the new sheriff in town here.”
Both have also gained four or five hundred pounds, which is good in the elephant world. And thanks to the World Wide Web, Laurita will soon start talking to schools in China, a country where ivory poaching is a big concern.
Visitors come from all over. On this day, there were two from Northern California.
“I think I have the new slogan for your state,” says Charlie Varon. “Maine, come for the lobster, stay for the elephants.”
Dr. Laurita regularly Skypes with classrooms and has developed a free curriculum for schools to download.
For more information on that as well as how to schedule a school visit to Hope Elephants, check out their Facebook page.