Lucy's Story

Lucy is a female Asian elephant captured from the wild in Sri Lanka when she was just a baby. In 1975, the City of Edmonton decided to expand its Storyland Valley Zoo, a small children's zoo that featured a variety of displays with storybook themes, like the Three Little Pigs and Mother Goose.

The new zoo would include an African exhibit featuring zebras, ostriches and other animals. The biggest attraction was going to be an elephant. At that time, every zoo wanted an elephant, and they were not hard to acquire. In the 1970s, zoos could order baby elephants from animal dealers, so the Valley Zoo placed an order for a baby Asian elephant from a West German animal dealer. In a letter to the dealer, the Valley Zoo manager said he wanted "a healthy, evenly coloured specimen of approximately two years of age." The manager also mentioned that he would prefer a baby that was no longer drinking its mothers milk, but said they would accept a milk-feeding animal if necessary." The zoo paid $8,939 for Lucy.

At the time, Lucy was named Skanik. The records are not entirely clear about where in Sri Lanka whe came from, but it is thought she was born in the wild. Some people claim she was an orphan. If Lucy was removed from her family in the wild, her mother would have done everything possible to prevent her from being taken. She would not have willingly given it up, even if it meant that she would also be captured, or even killed.

According to the animal dealer, Lucy came with a whole group of animals that arrived in a shipment from India, making it impossible to trace her background.

In 1977, Lucy was put in a crate and flown to Alberta, Canada from West Germany.

Since Edmonton is located in the north, its weather is very different from the tropical climate of Sri Lanka where Lucy came from. During cold weather she is kept inside her cement-floored barn, as well as at night when the zoo is closed. That adds up to a great deal of Lucy's time.

For close to the 10 years, a time when young elephants are with their mother and families, Lucy was alone. In 1986 and 1987, she was sent to the Calgary Zoo, three hours to the south, for breeding loans. She was bred many times but never produced a baby. The breeding loans then stopped and Lucy was alone again.

Then Samantha, a female baby African elephant that had been captured in Zimbabwe was brought to the zoo to keep Lucy company. But in 2007, Samantha was sent to another zoo on a long-term breeding loan and Lucy was left alone again. Samantha never returned.
Elephants are highly social animals, just like us. In fact, female elephants spend their entire lives in relatively stable family groups with their mother, sisters, aunts, cousins and even their grandmothers. They need to have friends and be around others of their own kind. Unfortunately, Lucy is alone at the Valley Zoo. She has no elephant family or friends and is currently one of only a few elephants living alone in North American zoos

Lucy is only in her mid-40s, but that's an advanced age for an elephant in a zoo. In fact, most elephants in zoos die before or during middle age, even though their potential natural lifespans can reach into the 60s or 70s. The oldest documented Asian elephant lived to be 86 years old. 
Subpages (1): L'histoire de Lucy