In the wild, elephants typically walk 10, 20 or even more kilometers every day. They form intricate family groups that remain stable throughout their lives. They grieve for their dead. They show humor and express compassion for one another with intense interactions. In captivity, many of the key elements of normal elephant life are absent. They're confined in steel pens, in barren conditions with little to do. Sometimes, they're completely alone with no other elephants to interact with, like Lucy is at the Valley Zoo.
Sanctuaries are havens for animals like Lucy who have spent their entire lives as public attractions. They are given a chance to live as close to a normal life as possible, something they may have never experienced before. Below are two sanctuaries in North America that rescue and care for wild elephants.
Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), California
PAWS offers a 2300 acre sanctuary in San Andreas, California, called ARK 2000, for eleven Asian and African elephants.
The elephants at PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary are able to walk for kilometres every day, as they would normally do in the wild. The elephants can forage naturally among the forests, bathe in lakes, roam unrestricted through the sanctuary's varied natural landscapes, or rest within state-of-the-art elephant barns that are equipped with heated elephant stalls and therapeutic jacuzzis.
Lucy has lived her lifetime of confinement in the Valley Zoo's 0.5 acre elephant enclosure. Lucy deserves to retire to a sanctuary, like PAWS, which offers 2300 acres of space where she can explore, forage, go for long walks without her keepers, and socialize and develop lifelong connections with the other elephants.
The Elephant Sanctuary, Tennessee
The Elephant Sanctuary is 2700 acres in size and is a protected environment that is home to 17 Asian and African elephants.
The Elephant Sanctuary provides a natural habitat that is very similar to that of wild elephants. The sanctuary has 2700 acres with grasslands and pastures, a 25 acre stream-fed lake, forested areas, streams and ponds, and state-of-the-art heated elephant barns.
At The Elephant Sanctuary, elephants are encouraged to behave and socialize as they would in the wild. The elephants walk 5-24 kilometres each day.
The weather in Tennessee is similar to weather in elephants' natural habitats. This provides suitable conditions for the elephants to live comfortably.
The Elephant Sanctuary has already agreed to allow Lucy to join their group of Asian elephants. The sanctuary has offered to pay for her transport. There would be no cost to the Valley Zoo or to taxpayers.
Lucy needs to be released from her small enclosure and sent to live, forage and play as an elephant on the sanctuary's 2700 acre refuge.