Rosie is a 42-year-old retired (Asian) circus elephant currently living at Endangered Ark in Hugo, Oklahoma. Established and run by Carson & Barnes Circus for its own herd of elephants, it functions as a breeding facility and retirement home. It is not a sanctuary or a circus with performing animals.
“The purpose of it is to perpetuate the Asian elephant in the United States,” says Barbara Miller Byrd, a third generation owner of the Carson & Barns circus in a video. “It’s a dwindling species, endangered species and so we are trying our best here to keep them going.” Asian elephants are no longer allowed to be imported to the United States. According to Defenders of Wildlife, the wild Asian elephant population has been reduced from 100,000 in 1900 to 35,000-40,000 today.
The controversy about Rosie is the proposal by veterinarian Jim Laurita and his brother Tom who want to bring Rosie to what they describe as a rehab facility for elephants in their hometown of Hope, Maine. The Laurita brothers worked at the circus back in the 1970s when they were teenagers. Tom was a juggler and ring master and Jim worked with, trained and handled the elephants; this is where he met Rosie.
Rosie is living at Endangered Ark because of an injury that resulted in chronic arthritis. She was attacked by some of the other elephants in her herd. She doesn’t walk very much because of the pain, and even lying down and getting up are difficult tasks for her.
Justin McAnaney, Director of Operations for Hope Elephants — the non-profit organization set up by the Lauritas — told me in a phone interview that Dr. Laurita wants to bring Rosie to Maine “to extend her life, slow deterioration and make her more comfortable.” He also relayed to me that Rosie was imported to the U.S. as a youngster and has lived in captivity since then. Most likely her mother was shot and she was captured. He also told me that Rosie was bottle-fed and really identifies with humans, but not so much with other elephants.
What Hope Elephants wants to do is help Rosie with her medical issues by providing physical therapy using the modalities of ultrasound and hydrotherapy. They have plans to build a first of its kind water treadmill for elephants. The website sates their mission is “to care for retired and injured elephants and to educate about conservation.”
There are many animal advocates looking to help animals who experience abuse, cruelty and neglect. And many are signed up with various groups like IDA (In Defense of Animals), the many SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) organizations, IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and numerous others to keep up to date on what is happening so they may step up and defend animals in need. Such was the case when I received an email from IDA elephant task force asking people to oppose bringing Rosie to Maine. Here you can read the letter comedian Lily Tomlin wrote to Maine Governor Paul LePage.
This story requires an open mind and a desire in seeking all the facts before forming an opinion. In researching Hope for Elephants and the campaigns to prevent Rosie from being transferred there, I discovered two very different beliefs and methods but with the same goal: to help Rosie have a better life.
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