Lucy, a beautiful Asian elephant, arrived at the Valley Zoo on May 19, 1977. She came to Edmonton after being captured in Sri Lanka. Since there were no records of her birth, it was estimated that she was approximately two years of age – so Lucy is estimated to be 39 today! Lucy lived alone at the zoo for approximately 12 years. Then Samantha, a female African elephant, was brought to the zoo to keep Lucy company. In 2007, Samantha was sent to the North Carolina Zoo on a long-term breeding loan and Lucy has been alone since that time.
Lucy's life in Edmonton does not even compare with the life she could be living if she was moved to a sanctuary. Currently, she lives a very solitary life with only human contact during “working hours”. Female elephants are highly social and suffer greatly when kept in isolation. Edmonton's freezing winter weather and the zoo's policy of locking Lucy indoors when the zoo is closed means that Lucy spends the majority of her time in a small barn. When she is allowed outside, she is restricted to an enclosure that is approximately one-half acre in size. Lucy exhibits signs of mental distress and has health issues—including upper respiratory problems, arthritis, obesity, and chronic foot ailments —attributable to inadequate conditions for the health and well-being of an elephant.
Both elephant and animal welfare experts agree that Lucy’s chronic health issues are exacerbated by being housed in a northern climate, which subjects her to confinement on cold, hard flooring, for the majority of the time. They also agree that her diseases are both chronic and advanced, and that she needs better living conditions and a more comprehensive program of medical attention than can be provided at the Valley Zoo in Edmonton. Lastly, they argue that keeping a female elephant alone, runs contrary not only to what science knows of elephants, but also national and international zoo association recommendations.
Despite strong scientific evidence, the City of Edmonton is resolute in their claim that Lucy is a well-adjusted healthy elephant overall and just fine where she is. In defense of their inaction in moving her to a sanctuary, they claim that Lucy is “too sick to move” and have convinced the media and their citizens that the “move will kill her”. However, they have never provided any medical evidence to that effect and have refused to broadened access to external experts to examine Lucy, continuing to allow only one external veterinarian to see her.
A number of experienced and renowned veterinarians world-wide have offered their support and services (at no cost to the City), yet the City and Zoo continue to insist that they have Lucy’s situation well in hand. Nonetheless, her condition continues to go undiagnosed – a situation that results in on-going pain and suffering for Lucy.
Please sign this petition asking the Mayor and City Council of Edmonton to ensure that Lucy is examined by an independent panel of elephant experts (a minimum of 9) to determine her medical condition (if any) and evaluate her “fitness” to travel to sanctuary. The experts chosen would be selected and agreed upon by both the City of Edmonton and Zoocheck Canada in order to ensure impartiality – affording the best advice for Lucy and all that care about her.
I respectfully request that you, as a representative of The City of Edmonton that holds responsibility for the operations of the Valley Zoo, ensure that Lucy the Elephant is examined by an independent panel of elephant experts (a minimum of 9) to determine her medical condition (if any) and evaluate her “fitness” to travel to sanctuary. The experts chosen would be selected and agreed upon by both the City of Edmonton and Zoocheck Canada in order to ensure impartiality – affording the best advice for Lucy and all that care about her.
Like all elephants, Lucy is an intelligent and keenly self-aware animal that should not be required to live in isolation in her small elephant enclosure – especially when a better life has been offered to her by both The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and PAWS Ark 2000 in San Andreas, California. Despite numerous requests to consider the best interests of Lucy by both organizations and citizens, the Edmonton Valley Zoo continues to insist that Lucy is better off even though
• the Edmonton climate (which is not appropriate for an elephant) has resulted in her spending many hours in-doors;
• she does not have adequate space to exercise – causing her physical and mental deterioration and distress; and
• her living conditions deprive her of social interaction with other elephants, suppressing her natural instincts and limiting her mental stimulation.
I ask that you, as elected officials and overseers of the Valley Zoo, act on the many requests to allow an independent panel of experts examine Lucy in order to definitively evaluate her health and living situation as well as whether or not her health precludes her ability to travel to sanctuary.
Over the last twenty years, more and more zoos have been eliminating their elephant exhibits as an increased knowledge about elephants has shown that it is difficult and costly to keep them physically and psychologically healthy in captivity. Recently, the City of Toronto recognized the limitations of their zoo enclosure and the detrimental effects of cold weather to their elephants and made a compassionate choice. In a convincing vote (31-4), the City Council of Toronto voted to move their elephants – Toka, Thika and Iringa – to PAWS Sanctuary in California.
Since Lucy arrived at the Zoo in 1977, the world has changed greatly and our thinking regarding elephants in captivity has evolved – we now have a greater awareness and a better understanding of these majestic animals – their intelligence, their need of social interaction with other elephants and how forcing an elephant to live in a zoo enclosure restricts their ability to live as they are meant to live, roaming free in a vast and diverse space, grazing, dusting and just being an elephant. There are now established elephant sanctuaries that provide a natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of these endangered animals. We know that a diverse vast space and living with other elephants has a very positive influence on an elephant’s behavior and health, and that elephants forced to live in captivity suffer both psychologically and physically – why is Lucy being denied the opportunity for a better life?
A number of experienced and renowned veterinarians world-wide have offered their support and services (at no cost to the City) – please allow an independent expert veterinary assessment of Lucy’s health (similar to the panel of 11 experts brought in to examine Maggie at the Alaska Zoo) to establish the status of her health, and if warranted, facilitate and support her transfer to more suitable accommodation.