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Two circus elephant's road to recovery leads to Hope, Maine

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HOPE - Two ladies who just moved to the town of Hope are turning quite a few heads. These circus performers, known as Rosie and Opal, have traded in their showbiz life in exchange for a quiet retirement in Knox county with another former circus worker, Dr. Jim Laurita.

"I've known Rosie and Opal for 37 years," said Laurita.

Dr. Laurita met the elephant duo back in the 1970s when he and his brother Tom joined the circus. Tom had a juggling act in the show, and Jim worked as an elephant trainer. Since then, Jim has spent the last 20 years helping animals of all sizes as a veterinarian in Camden.

"Circus elephants are rugged and healthy," explained Laurita. "[But] my brother and I always had the idea in the back of our minds that we'd like to do something more for the elephants that were in that show we were in in the '70s."

Now, he's been given the chance to do just that inside his custom-built elephant rehabilitation center.

"These two need some physical therapy and have injuries that we're proposing to improve with rehabilitation just like you would do with an expensive race horse," said Laurita. "We're doing therapeutic ultrasound and acupuncture, and we're in the design stage of [creating] a water treadmill."

Laurita is not only looking to rehabilitate and improve Rosie and Opal's remaining years on earth but also to educate local school kids about these gigantic animals as well as teach the importance of conservation to all who will listen.

"There is a huge problem right now where 30,000 elephants a year are being poached in Africa for their tusks," he said. "We're going to show kids that even from a place in Hope, Maine you can become part of this national conservation movement."

Local businesses are excited to chip in on the effort as well. Laurita has received donated food and joint medication to assist in Rosie and Opal's road to recovery.

"The most successful [elephant] breeding program is in Ontario. So if you have a good facility you can successfully keep them in Midcoast Maine or colder [locations]. What they stand on is sand and under that is radiant heat, so they're on heated sand," explained Laurita.

Elephants can live well into their 50s and 60s according to Laurita, so at a mere 43 and 41 years of age, Rosie and Opal have a lot of good years ahead of them here in vacationland.

"They are happier now than they've ever been in their lives," said Laurita.

Those interested in learning more about Rosie and Opal or elephants in general can schedule a visit to Hope Elephants by visiting www.hopeelephants.org. You can also follow the progress of Rosie and Opal by liking the Hope Elephants Facebook page.

Last modified on Friday, 09 November 2012 09:05

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