We’re known for our moose and lobsters but did you know Maine was once home to elephants?

Once upon a time, two injured elephants retired from the circus as performers and found refuge at a specially designed facility to be rehabilitated. That facility happened to be in Hope, Maine.

Hope Elephant Sanctuary

While no longer in service, Hope Elephant Sanctuary used to be a rehabilitation center for two elephants, Rosie and Opal. The center hosted educational opportunities for the public and was deeply loved by the community, receiving 5-star ratings across the board on TripAdvisor.

Some comments even mentioned having to wait a YEAR to get a chance to visit and they said it was well worth the wait!

Veterinary Dr.Jim Laurita had once been a juggler in the circus but had a deep love and adoration for elephants. He worked with Rosie and Opal before moving on to vet school but he found his way back to the two girls to save them.

Rosie and Opal, The Hope, Maine Elephants

I learned about these two darlings from a friend who has a camp in Hope. This past weekend, we drove by a building and she pointed at it and said, “elephants used to live there.” I had to ask her two times if I heard her correctly.

Rosie and Opal were circus performers and we all know the sad reality of what happens to animals in these types of environments. Having worked closely with the elephants, Dr. Jim knew these two were on the bottom of the hierarchy and were bullied and attacked by the other elephants. He chose Rosie and Opal specifically to be brought to isolation in Hope because if they had been put into another larger herd, their weakness would prevail and the harassment would go on.

Dr. Jim had more than just a love for these elephants but years of knowledge and experience to take care of them. As National Geographic shares about his experience, he went to Cornell for his doctorate in veterinary medicine, then worked at the Bronx Zoo as the head elephant trainer, and traveled to India to work closely with the beautiful mammals.

Both elephants suffered from injuries that were taken care of through rehabilitation and physical therapy at the sanctuary in Maine.

What Happened to the Hope Maine Elephants?

In 2014, as the National Geographic article shares, Dr. Jim was found unresponsive in the corral. He was tending to the elephants during his typical routine when he fell and struck his head on the cement floor. While on the ground, one of the elephants accidentally stepped on him. After investigation, it was ruled a complete accident and the elephants did not attack him in any way.

News Center Maine covered the news and shared that Dr. Jim had said if anything were to happen, to send Rosie and Opal back to the sanctuary where they had been before in Oklahoma, The Endangered Ark Foundation. Dr. Jim spoke highly of this organization and knew they would be in good hands.

The reviews for the Hope Sanctuary were unanimously filled with high praise with nothing but pure gratitude and satisfaction for what an educational opportunity it was. It was such a unique experience for Mainers and travelers to have right here in our state and one that had lasting memories for many.

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