- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

HOPE, Maine (AP) - A Maine elephant rehabilitation facility says its two pachyderms are being sent back to an Oklahoma sanctuary in accordance with the wishes of their caretaker who died when one of the animals stepped on him.

Authorities found caretaker and Hope Elephants co-founder James Laurita unresponsive at the Hope, Maine facility on Tuesday. Police say one of the elephants apparently accidentally stepped on Laurita after he fell. The organization’s board announced Wednesday that elephants Hope and Opal would be sent back to the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma.

Hope Elephants’ board said in a statement Thursday that Laurita wanted the elephants sent back to Oklahoma if Hope had no other qualified handlers and veterinarians to care for them. The statement says Hope has no full-time caretaker without Laurita.

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