Maine known for Lobsters, Lighthouses and Elephants?

Maine may be best known for lobsters, lighthouses and even moose but did you know that there are now elephants in Maine?

A visit with the Girls -Rosie and Opal- will truly inspire you.

A visit with the Girls -Rosie and Opal- will truly inspire you.

Yes Elephants.  If you are looking to see and learn about these wonderful creatures in a way you have never been able to before plan a visit to Hope Elephants the next time you are visiting the Rockland/Camden area of Maine. Hope Elephants is a one of kind facility that offers visitors a one of kind experience. There tag line is “Never Forget: Hope for these and all elephants begins with you”.

The resident elephants are Rosie and Opal and they are a pair of Asian elephants that have retired from over 40 years of performing in the circus.  They both have suffered some depilating injuries.  Rosie is partially paralyzed in her trunk, has nerve damage in her shoulders, and arthritis in her legs.   Opal, the younger of the two, has a problem with her foot, arthritis and severe pain in her limbs and joints.  The mission of Hope Elephants is twofold.  First it is to provide medical care and rehab to both Rosie and Opal to provide them with a much improved quality of life and to develop about medical protocols that can be used at other elephant facilities to care for older and aging elephants.  Secondly, it is to take this unique opportunity to see elephants up close and personal and to educate people on how intelligent, emotional and self-aware this beautiful animals are and likewise how important it is for us all to promote wildlife conservation or in as little as 6 years there may not be any more wild Asian elephants in the world.

Why elephants in Maine?  In the early 1970s, Dr. Jim Laurita and his brother Tom had a juggling act that they performed with the circus.  This is where they both met Rosie and Opal.  For Jim, it was a life changing moment as he credits Rosie with inspiring him to become a veterinarian. Over the next 20 years, Jim graduating from CornellUniversity; worked with elephants at zoos and wildlife sanctuaries and did independent research on elephants in India and ultimately returned to Maine and opened a private practice. Years later Dr. Jim went to visit Rosie in her elephant retirement community in Oklahoma.  He was thrilled that Rosie remembered him but heartbroken by her condition.  At that point he made it his mission to bring Rosie to Maine and to provide intensive medical therapy and caring for her in her golden years.  And so in October of 2012 when Rosie and Opal arrived, Hope Elephants began.

Visits to the Hope Elephant facility are not for entertainment.  You will not be able to touch or ride either of the elephants to this end all visits are by reservation only.  You can call 207-230-7830 or to make a reservation.  Group sizes are limited for each visit and generally they last 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on questions.  In the summer season, they offer tours multiple times a day and in the quieter time of year typically 1pm daily or perhaps 11 or 1pm on weekends. Thursday there are no visits with the Girls.  If one of the elephants is not feeling well or having issues than all visits for the day will be cancelled.  To support the care for Rosie and Opal donations are strongly suggested at $15 per person for adults and $10 for children under 12.

When you visit the facility you will be enthralled watching Rosie and Opal interact much like sisters; moved by the stories and shenanigans of Rosie and Opal and amazed by the passion of Dr. Jim and the volunteer staff to provide a better life for the “girls”.  The visit will inspire most to get involved in some level to protect the wild animals in our world that man is pushing to extinction.

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