HOPE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Are there elephants in Maine? Not yet, but there soon will be. A veterinarian from the town of Hope is building a treatment facility for a retired circus elephant named Rosie.
Dr. Jim Laurita says elephants are amazing creatures, as smart or smarter than many humans, and very social. He began working with elephants in the circus at age eighteen, and then worked with elephants at the Bronx Zoo and an animal safari business in Oregon before graduating from Cornell University Veterinary school. Laurita says he has known Rosie the elephant for years, and says she needs specialized treatment for muscle and leg injuries suffered in a fight with another elephant. Rosie currently lives at the headquarters of a circus in Oklahoma, where he says she is well cared for but cannot get the specialized treatment he can provide. He plans to bring her to Hope, provide that treatment and let her live out her retirement years in Maine.
Laurita and his wife, Carrie, have created a non-profit group called Hope Elephants, which is raising money for the project. They need to build a large barn and build a massive fence around the one-acre field that will become Rosie's new home. The Lauritas say they're receiving tremendous support from people in the area, many of whom have become as excited about the project as they are. Dr. Laurita says that once he explains to people this will be a place to provide medical care and rehab for Rosie-and potentially another elephant-they understand his vision for the project . He also intends to use the elephants and the treatment facility to teach children about the animals, and let them be exposed to creatures they might never see close up in any other way.
As for Rosie? "Anybody that spends any time with her," says Dr. Laurita, "will be as cuckoo as we are. And it doesn't take that long to get cuckoo about these animals."