Two brothers shared a passion for elephants that began when, as young men, they joined a circus. There they became attached to Rosie and Opal, Asian elephants now more than 40 years old, retired from the circus and in need of special care.
Several years ago the brothers began dreaming about bringing the two to Hope, Maine. Some people thought they were crazy to think of having Rosie and Opal in such an unnatural climate and environment, but persevere did the brothers and their dream became a reality.
The facility not only provided a unique and caring environment for Rosie and Opal, it introduced children and adults to the habits of these marvelous animals and increased awareness of their threatened plight and the importance of protecting wildlife.
For three years, Rosie and Opal have been lovingly tended by one of the brothers whose veterinary skills vastly improved their quality of life. His commitment and dedication to Hope Elephants won admiration from people not only in the local community but throughout the world. Just this week a National Geographic reporter was in Hope to prepare a feature.
The story of Hope Elephants has in the last few days been tragically interrupted. Dr. Jim Laurita fell, hitting his head on a concrete floor. No one was there to witness the accident or what happened next, but this is what we hope is true.
Elephants have a tendency to use their trunks and feet to help an injured herd member. Seeing her loved caregiver down, one of the elephants tried to raise him, planting her foot on his chest and crushing it, causing death by asphyxiation. Dr. Jim’s death has been ruled accidental, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of this incredibly sad incident.
Because currently there is no backup care for Rosie and Opal, they must be returned, as requested by Dr. Laurita should anything happen to him, to a facility in Oklahoma that cares for retired and aging elephants. They will be missed, but the passionate kindness of Dr. Jim Laurita will long be remembered. It is hoped that one day Rosie and Opal or other elephants who need the special kind of care given at Hope Elephants will return.
Should any of you reading this post be touched by this story and wish to learn about a foundation established to honor Dr. Laurita and continue his work, you may learn more here.
i so appreciate your taking time to read this story