If plans go forward as expected, Rosie, a 42-year-old Asian elephant may move to Hope by late summer.

Veterinarian Jim Laurita and his brother Tommy Laurita have formed the nonprofit Hope Elephants and are currently in the early stages of fundraising to build a state-of-the-art facility on Hatchet Mountain Road in Hope to house and rehabilitate the elephant.

Jim Laurita, who works at Camden Hospital for Animals, said this is something he has contemplated doing for a long time. At one time, before veterinarian school, the Laurita brothers worked in a traveling circus — the two had a juggling act, Tommy was a ringmaster and Jim worked with the elephants, traveling the country making a living as an elephant trainer.

Rosie, who is currently in an Oklahoma facility, does not mix well with the other elephants and has sustained some injuries as a result, Jim Laurita said. She has been isolated from the rest of the herd.

“Most elephants are social, so we’ll get her a goat or something,” Laurita said, in order to have a companion to keep her company.

The plan is to build a large barn at Laurita’s home, located across from Hatchet Mountain Publick House, which will have radiant heat in the floors and a water treadmill, and the elephant will receive therapeutic ultrasounds. Laurita said it will be the only facility in the United States to perform high-end physical therapy on elephants. She will have therapy similar to that of racing horses, he said. There will also be a large fenced-in area for her to roam.

“Keeping an elephant is like having three or four horses,” he said. He still plans to keep his job at the animal hospital.

He said elephants are very adaptable to different weather conditions and will be fine living in a cooler climate. There are elephants at the Syracuse Zoo in New York and it is colder there in the winter than Maine, he said.

“Compared to the situation she’s in now, it will be a huge improvement,” Laurita said.

The plan is to dovetail the project with education, opening the doors to school field trips and also to have visiting hours. Since the elephant is a retired circus elephant, she is used to being around people so visitors will be able to get up close, touch her and even hug her trunk. He’ll also have a web cam.

“It’ll be a fun venture and really good for her,” he said. “We can teach kids, while giving her a good life.”

He would like to hire local teens to work at the facility and it will be a great hands-on experience for those children interested in working with animals for a career.

“It’s difficult to get experience working with exotic animals to get into exotic animal care,” Laurita said.

The project is still in the early stages. Laurita said he has an agreement with the facility in Oklahoma to move the elephant to Maine, but he still needs town, state and federal approval.

The Hope Planning Board is expected to hear pre-application plans at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. at the town office.

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