Hope Elephants receives exhibitors license
Hope — Hope Elephants — the nonprofit rehabilitation and educational facility for retired and injured circus elephants — has received regulatory permission to bring elephants to its site.
Hope Elephants received its USDA Class C Exhibitors License, the federal permit needed to bring elephants to the facility. The state of Maine approval process is also nearly finalized, with a waiting period for health checks to be completed. The process began early in 2011.
“We are so pleased that the long regulatory review process has been completed,” said Dr. Jim Laurita of Hope Elephants in a news release. “The USDA is quite stringent in its review of new elephant facilities and issues very few exhibitor licenses. I take our receipt of this license as a stamp of approval from the federal government indicating that the USDA regulators have fully approved our facility, our expertise and our plans for housing and caring for retired circus elephants.”
Laurita said Hope Elephants has had success navigating the state of Maine approval process. Laurita is a Cornell-educated veterinarian and co-founded Hope Elephants with his brother Tom Laurita.
“The state process has been long and challenging, especially since the various regulatory state agencies had no prior experience with a purpose-built elephant facility that will house and care for elephants year round in Maine,” Laurita said. “The last hurdle to overcome is a state-required waiting period for health checks. We are still working with the state to shorten or eliminate this waiting period. The good news is that, even in the worst case, the state has given us the go-ahead to have elephants on site in September. Our facility is complete, the regulators have signed-off ... we are now elephant ready!”
Once the state of Maine waiting period ends, Hope Elephants plans to bring two elephants to its facility to begin care and treatment.
Rosie, a 42-year-old Asian elephant, was the first to be identified as a candidate for rehabilitation because an injury and arthritic deterioration of her foreleg made her appropriate for the focused physical therapy, exercise and dietary treatment to be provided by Hope Elephants. Rosie was chosen at the beginning of the process with the intention that a second, companion elephant, would be identified later. Instead, the long regulatory review process allowed Hope Elephants time to select and arrange for that second elephant to be brought to the facility.
Opal, another aging retired Asian female circus elephant who is showing signs of joint deterioration, will be brought to Maine with Rosie.
“While we eagerly anticipate the arrival of resident elephants in the fall, we have taken the opportunity to introduce Rosie and Opal to each other before their move to Maine,” Laurita said. “They are now living together and getting along well in their temporary quarters in Oklahoma. We are continuing to supply them with much-needed dietary supplements, and I can't wait to get their physical therapy started once they arrive.”
The rural Maine facility was designed and built for the treatment of two elephants to live in a safe, purpose-built habitat that allows for optimum veterinary treatment including state-of-the-art physical therapy and nutritional support. A coordinated educational program is designed as a catalyst to inspire visitors and student groups to participate in wildlife conservation. While waiting for completion of the regulatory review process, Hope Elephants has moved forward with its educational and community outreach programs.
“I have been thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to make presentations on elephant ecology and conservation to school children around the Midcoast region and to adults as part of local adult education programs,” Laurita said. “Once the elephants arrive and are comfortable in their new home, we will have the opportunity to make an even greater impact by inviting these groups to the facility to observe these fascinating animals first-hand.”
Hope Elephants is planning two summer fundraising events to help cover the costs of the now-competed elephant barn and paddock and to provide sustaining funding for its elephant care and educational programs. Updates on the venues and timing of these events will be posted on the Hope Elephants website (hopeelephants.org) and Facebook page. Hope Elephants is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that is solely reliant on donors for its funding.
“We know that it will always be a challenge to fund a small charitable organization like Hope Elephants when there are so many wonderful nonprofits in our area, all of which deserve support,” Laurita said. “We believe that the Hope Elephants project is special because it is doing something positive for a few elephants in need, building the message of conservation by educating the next generation about these remarkable animals, and creating another unique highlight for the vibrant Midcoast Maine region. I think our supporters recognize this and have expressed that recognition through their ongoing support. I would like to thank all the local individuals and businesses who have generously supported Hope Elephants to date.”
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