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Friday, November 15, 2013

Hope Elephants

If you want to go to a super cool, very inspiring place that will restore your faith in human beings, let me recommend Hope Elephants.  My sister and I and our kids got to go there with our Mom and it was amazing.
Hope Elephants is in Hope, Maine (near Camden).  It is the home of a local vet, Jim Laurita, who also happens to have had a childhood career as a circus juggler where, 40 years ago, he met two young elephants by the name of Rosie and Opal.  About a year ago, Jim outfitted his back yard and overhauled his barn to make space for these same elephants (now long since retired) to come and live out their senior years under his devoted care.

As their website states, "Hope Elephants is the only facility in the US where elephants receive daily state-of-the-art medical and physical therapy and nutritional support."  As a visitor you sign up in predetermined time slots and move as a group to the see the elephants, learn all about them and get to ask lots of questions.  It is not a petting zoo and you do not touch the elephants but you do get to see them up close.  Their primary goal is care of these aged, injured elephants and a heartfelt message about conservation. If our world doesn't do something to stop illegal poaching, by 2020 the elephant population will be eradicated.  That doesn't seem possible but it is true.

They also have a friendly pet cat that Ella really fancied.
In the little store they sell "Packy Poo" which is elephant poop fertilizer.  It's supposed to be the bomb.
Here are Rosie and Opal, two Asian elephants who worked in the circus industry for over 40 years.  They have some injuries, including Rosie's partially paralyzed trunk and Opal's joint deterioration.
Rosie and Opal are Asian elephants.  They are smaller than African elephants and can withstand the cold temperatures of a Maine winter.  Jim said that last year when it snowed they were so excited to get out in the snow roll around in it.  They like to make snowballs with their trunks.

This is Jim. He is way cool.

As a form of physical therapy, they took a mooring ball (like the kind that are inflated and used to mark boat moorings), slit some holes in it and stuffed it with carrots.  She has to throw the ball around with her trunk to get the carrots out which is, of course, the reward for her hard work.
Their inside accommodations.  The floor is comprised of heated sand to be extra cushioned on their aging feet and legs.
This is the size of an elephant tooth.  It must weigh 25-30 pounds.

I asked Jim if he can over go away overnight and leave the elephants unattended.  He said no, that they are much too curious and easily bored.  They have to constantly monitor them and see that they don't get into trouble.  He has a baby monitor to hear their activities when he is in his house.  Sounds like having two massive Mayas on your hands.

In their education room they have a huge poster of an elephant and you can measure yourself up against it and mark how tall you are by comparison.
Maya put me down by the ankle.  She is such a prankster.
My mom with her grandkids.  What a great way to spend a sunny fall afternoon!  Thanks Mom for such a cool outing.

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