HOPE — Asian elephants Rosie and Opal arrived safely today at Hope Elephants in Hope, according to the nonprofit that has been working for more than two years to bring the retired circus animals to Maine.
Rosie and Opal have joint and muscle ailments and are the first residents of the Hope Elephants facility, which was created by Dr. Jim Laurita, a Cornell educated veterinarian, and Tom Laurita, his brother.
"I am so pleased to see Rosie and Opal settling into their new home at our Hope Elephants facility," said Jim Laurita, executive director, in a press release issued Saturday evening, Oct. 20. "Hope Elephants has been working toward this day for over two years, and we could not have done it without an outpouring of support from the Maine community."
Hope Elephants wants to care for elephants who have medical needs by employing state-of-the-art veterinary therapeutic treatments and to serve as an educational platform for the issues of wildlife conservation using the example of elephants, the organization said.
"The arrival of Rosie and Opal is an important milestone for Hope Elephants, but it is only the first step toward our organization's dual goals of elephant care and education," said Tom Laurita. "We will now be able to begin actively working to improve the health of these two wonderful animals and building on the educational outreach that we've already started."
Prior to the arrival of the elephants, Hope Elephants worked with local schools, scout groups and summer camps to provide educational programming centered on elephants and conservation. With the arrival of the elephants, Hope Elephants will significantly expand its educational mission, including the offering of a specific curriculum that will be made available to local educators and delivered in conjunction with a visit to the facility by school groups.
"The conservation issues surrounding elephants are at a critical point. Everyone should read 'Blood Ivory', the cover story in the October issue of National Geographic," urged Tom Laurita. "People may not realize that tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered each year for their tusks, and that in both Asia and Africa they are endangered. We want to play our small role in raising consciousness about these incredible animals."
After a period of time to allow the elephants to adjust to their new home, Hope Elephants will begin welcoming the public to the facility by appointment for an educational presentation and to meet Maine's new residents.
Justin McAnaney, Hope Elephants director of operations, explained the process: "Rosie and Opal will need a period of two to four weeks to acclimate. During that time we ask our friends and supporters to be patient and let them get used to their new home in Maine. When the elephants have settled in, the public will be able to visit in small groups by appointment. In order to provide the optimal environment for the elephants, the facility will not be open to walk-up visitors."
Progress may be followed through the organization's Facebook page.
Those wishing to schedule a visit may contact the organization at 207-619-4801 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.