Free Lucy the Elephant from Lifelong Imprisonment

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When will animals have rights to a normal healthy and emotionally well life? When you picture an elephant you would probably not think a concrete cage would be it's home for life. Unfortunately, this is where Lucy the elephant spends her time, trapped in a barren box at the Edmonton Zoo in the cold climes of Canada. Not only is this unnatural lifestyle a cruel punishment for such an innocent creature, but it also takes a severely negative toll on her health. Where one would normally find an elephant is in tropical areas, roaming large swaths of land and moving through forests and along rivers, this is tragically far from the case for Lucy the elephant. Sadly, she spends most of her time locked up and alone inside of her cage, with a swinging tire as her only toy. Instead of spending her time soaking up the sun in a mud bath or playing with other elephants, Lucy often sits and stares as strangers pass back and forth in front of her cold glass enclosure. Elephants are highly intelligent sentient beings who love their families, just as we love ours. Those making decisions on her behalf and caring for her are not taking anything a elephant needs into account but instead hold LUCY each day in these conditions. How sad when elephants are being wiped out by rapacious poaching that is claiming the lives of 55 elephants every day, not to mention the number that are captured and sold as in the case of LUCY>

In an interview with the Dodo, the Lucy Edmonton Advocate’s Project (LEAP) co-founder Mary-Anne Holmes describes Lucy’s lonely existence. “She spends her days alone in a glass cage where the walls are painted with artificial trees. The only trees she has access to are behind electric fencing, just out of reach”. Talk about torture. That is no way for an elephant to live, especially for so long.

Lucy was captured from her native home in Sri Lanka when she was just a calf in 1977. She is now 43-year-old. It would be 12 years before Lucy saw another elephant. In 1989, the Zoo shipped in a baby African elephant, Samantha, for Lucy to “Mother”. This is common practice, as all elephants are very social creatures, and need the care and affection of other elephants to live.Unfortunately, though, Lucy’s relationship to Samantha was cut short. Although they got to spend 18 years bonding with each other, it should have been for life. However, in 2007, the Zoo tore Samantha away from Lucy and sent her to North Carolina on a “breeding contract’. To Lucy’s heartbreak, Samantha was never brought back to Edmonton, and she has been alone ever since. Holmes describes just how heart-wrenching this must have been for the lonely elephant. “It was quite devastating for her to go from having a companion, to suddenly being all alone again. There are many photos of the two standing right next to eachother, and holding trunks together. But the Zoo climed that Lucy didn’t like her, and the she [Lucy] is actually an antisocial elephant who prefers humans.” The claim that Lucy is antisocial is an outright lie, as it stands in sharp contrast to everything scientists and biologists have observed in elephants as they are in their natural habitat. According to the Defenders of Wildlife, elephants are dependent on a tight-knit social structure for survival, especially baby elephants. “Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd…When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd.” Regardless of the fact that elephants are social in nature and thrive upon that structure, there are still plenty of Zoos that force elephants to lead lonely, solitary lives in poor environments.

As one might expect, Lucy’s health has begun to rapidly decline as a direct result of the cruel life forced on her by the Zoo. Holmes goes on in the interview to detail Lucy’s ailments. “She suffers from chronic arthritis, foot disease, obesity, stereotypy [repetitive, compulsive movements related to stress] and an undiagnosed respiratory condition. The first two are the biggest cause of the premature death of zoo elephants.”

LEAP has been fighting for Lucy’s right to a healthy, more natural life since its inception in 2015. Tragically, despite their efforts, the Edmonton Zoo and the politicians in power have ignored all of their attempts to free Lucy. This includes two lawsuits brought against them since 2010, both of which went to the Supreme Court before being denied by 2 out of 3 chief justices. There’s really not a good excuse not to send Lucy to another sanctuary, more suited to her needs. Keeping her in Canada, where temperatures frequently fall well below freezing in the long winter months, makes absolutely no sense. This is especially apparent when you take her natural environment into consideration.

In Sri Lanka, the yearly average temperature is 80°F, compared to the average temperature at Edmonton which is only 39°. Holmes describes what it is really like for Lucy. “In the dead of winter, we’ll have a cold snap for weeks where Lucy will not see the light of day. Other times, she’s been taken outside for ‘walks’ in the snow. I have photos of her up to her knees in snow. With her arthritis and joint problems, I can’t imagine how painful that must be.” When you think about it, making an arthritic elephant with foot disease and severe anxiety stand in the snow is beyond cruel. This doesn’t encompass what she endures when the weather is “good”.As Lucy is the main attraction, and certainly the largest that the Zoo has to offer, she is taken on short “walks” along the same paved pathways that visitors use.We all know how searing the pavement can be in the heat, but Lucy has to walk on it anyway.The reason? So that God forbid, if she feels the utterly natural urge to pull at tree branches, she won’t be able to get at them. Holmes describes the norm for Lucy on a summer day. “They keep her on the path because they don’t want her to grab branches off the trees or do any damage to the lawn. On July 31, when it was in the 90s here, they had her walking on the asphalt and it was burning her feet.”

The beautiful elephant finds no respite in her cage either, as visitors can pay to go inside and “visit” with her. Holmes worries that the Zoo’s poor management of Lucy’s care, and the lack of consideration regarding her condition and temperament, will ultimately spell the worst for the depressed elephant. “There’s women holding babies and toddlers running around, and all I can wonder is what would happen to Lucy if she lashed out one day. They [zoo and visitors] don’t seem to understand how dangerous and deadly elephants can be.” The only real hope for Lucy is to relocate her to a sanctuary, where she can roam for miles with other elephants in a more natural environment. Getting her there though seems to be a matter of re-educating the public, as many don’t understand why Lucy’s confinement is such a plight.

LEAP aims to take on that re-education by holding frequent classes, demonstrations, and seminars that are open to the public, in hopes of gaining the local support needed to give Lucy a second shot at life. You might be thinking that a 43-year-old elephant doesn’t have much time left, and might not constitute the costly endeavor of relocating her, and you would be right, but only if Lucy doesn’t get released.

Holmes explains that she could live much longer, as a mid-40’s lifespan really only applies to Zoo elephants. “The zoo says Lucy is an old elephant, but she’s only ‘getting old’ by zoo standards. I’ve met one sanctuary elephant who is 89 years old, and numerous others in their 70s. By that stretch, she’s only middle-aged.” Although it has been an uphill battle, fighting for Lucy to be relocated to a sanctuary is something Holmes and LEAP are prepared to continue striving for. Holmes states,

“Over the years we’ve been watching Lucy slowly decline and we’ve done almost everything we can to help her. But we won’t give up.”

If you would like to find out more about how you can help give Lucy a better life that’s long overdue, you can head over to LEAP’s website, where you can learn how to take action and sign up for their newsletter.

For years, activists have been trying to get Lucy, the lone elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, relocated to warmer climes, claiming she’s unwell and lonely — but the latest legal effort by animal rights groups to force the courts to review the conditions of her confinement has failed.

This case is a complicated one, said Peter Sankoff, a University of Alberta legal professor and expert in animal rights law, and is ripe for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, because it raises the issue of how humans are supposed to stick up for animals if courts don’t give them the chance to do so.

“What the applicants are saying here is that Lucy’s interests are very much impacted, but no one’s allowed to go to court on her behalf,” Sankoff said. “That’s what the issue really is in this case and that’s the issue I think the Supreme Court needs to consider.” Lucy, who came to the zoo in May 1977 and is 42 years old, has attracted high-profile advocates over the years, including Bob Barker, the former host of The Price is Right and Edmonton Oilers enforcer Georges Laraque; each offered to give the city $100,000 if Lucy was moved. Even the Jackass star Steve-O called for her to be moved to a sanctuary when he was in Edmonton for a comedy show in 2011.Those who say Lucy should stay have argued that any move could kill her, especially because of a respiratory condition that’s exacerbated by stress. Zoocheck Canada, the appellant, argued the Edmonton zoo was violating zoo standards and that as a result, the province should not have renewed its permit. That would have forced the zoo into compliance, which could have led to Lucy being moved to a different location, said Julie Woodyer, campaigns director with Zoocheck Canada. Lawyers for the province and the city (which owns the zoo) argued the decision to get a license had nothing to do with where and how Lucy lives.

In this instance, the majority on the Alberta Court of Appeals stuck to an “orthodox” line, Sankoff said, considering only whether Zoocheck Canada had the ability to ask the courts to review the Alberta agriculture and forestry minister’s renewal of the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s license. The court concluded they did not have the legal ability to do so, agreeing with the lower court judge’s ruling from 2017 that “the appellants had not demonstrated they had a real stake or genuine interest in the matter they seek to judicially review — the renewal of the Zoo’s permit,” wrote the Alberta Court of Appeal. “The appellants’ real concern is Lucy’s well-being.” The appeals court ruled the decision to grant a zoo license falls under the Wildlife Act, which, the courts said, is not an animal protections law — those are spelled out in the Animal Protections Act. The judge in the lower court ruling noted this is “counter-intuitive” but that “there are other mechanisms that bear upon the treatment of zoo animals like Lucy.” To ask the court to find the zoo had breached animal protections laws would be “premature,” the appeals court concluded, since “no proceedings have been commenced against the zoo under (the Animal Protections Act) by the responsible authorities.” But in a strongly worded dissent, which Sankoff characterized as “a big deal,” Justice Brian K. O’Ferrall argued: “If animals are to be protected in any meaningful way, they, or their advocates, must be accorded some form of legal standing.” Woodyer said the ruling sets a “very dangerous precedent” for animals, or even rivers, that cannot launch their own legal challenges. “It will not just harm this case for Lucy but any cases anyone brings forward for an environmental issue, an animal issue, any time someone doesn’t have a personal interest,” Woodyer said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s not even just about Lucy anymore, it’s about any animal.” The suit Zoocheck filed in 2017 builds on an earlier case from 2011 involving Lucy, in which Zoocheck, among others, asked the courts to declare her in distress, in violation of the Animal Protections Act, which in turn would’ve forced the zoo into action. The court at the time said they had not used the proper legal channels in that suit; an appellate court concluded the same. o Zoocheck tried a second legal avenue — the zoo licence route. Arguments were heard in March 2018, and the court released its decision last week. Zoocheck is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, said Woodyer. The Post reached out to the province for comment, but it was unable to meet the Post’s deadline.

Beyond CRUEL, so disgusting that so many people would support keeping this poor elephant in this zoo not to mention in a glass cage and in a climate that is not for her. Please help her, please, sign this petition and share.

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Lucy has served Edmonton long enough. Now it's time for Edmonton to allow her to retire and have some enjoyment out of her sad life.  Sad when Edmonton choice to do this to Lucy as an Attraction for $'s.