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A Cold and Lonely Christmas for Lucy (December 24, 2008)

posted 26 Aug 2010, 10:19 by Bhavithra Aloysious

Zoocheck Canada

For Immediate Release

December 24, 2008


Valley Zoo dredges up all the old excuses to leave Lucy in the cold while Maggie enjoys living in a Sanctuary in California


Zoocheck Canada officials say the Valley Zoo is using the same excuses to try to keep Lucy in Edmonton that the Alaska Zoo used before they finally acknowledged that their lone elephant would be better off with other elephants in a Southern US Sanctuary.  


Lucy has been living alone since Samantha was sent away on a long term breeding loan in September, 2007.  In addition, to this highly social animal being left in isolation, Lucy is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and chronic foot infections, the leading cause of death in zoo elephants.  Now the zoo is claiming a malpositioned tooth and the “stress” of socializing with other elephants is the reason they cannot retire Lucy to a sanctuary.  


“In 2005 & 2006 the Alaska Zoo was fighting to convince the public that Maggie, an ailing African elephant, could not be moved because she was not a social elephant and it would be too risky to move her given her diminished physical condition.  Now the Valley Zoo is attempting to use the same old arguments to keep Lucy alone in Edmonton” reports Julie Woodyer, Campaigns Director for Zoocheck Canada.  “We don’t believe that Edmontonians will fall for these weak excuses any more than Alaskans did for Maggie.  It is clear that it is time to move Lucy before her health condition worsens.”


Like Lucy, Maggie was locked inside the zoo’s barn for more than 70% of her life and was suffering physically and psychologically by her isolation and cold climate in the winter.  The Alaska Zoo officials argued that because Maggie did not get on well with her former cage-mate she was not social and preferred the company of her human handlers to other elephants.  In 2007, Maggie’s health began to worsen to the point where the zoo had to bring in a crane twice to get her back onto her feet after she went down.  After significant public pressure, the zoo’s board finally agreed to move Maggie to a California Sanctuary where she immediately began to socialize with the other elephants and her health improved significantly. 


Lucy is the new Maggie.  The Valley Zoo is saying the same things that the Alaska Zoo said about Maggie, but another year has gone by and Lucy is still living alone in her small barren enclosure.  Medical records obtained through Freedom of Information legislation reveal that Lucy is being treated daily for pain and some days she will not even eat or drink.  “Like Maggie, Lucy’s health will continue to fail as long as she is left alone in the cold climate of Edmonton.  The only question left to ask is if the Valley Zoo will wait until Lucy cannot stand up before they consider moving her to a more appropriate facility with other elephants”  Woodyer added.


Like the Alaska Zoo, Valley Zoo management have claimed that Lucy is different from all other elephants by saying that she prefers the company of humans to elephants.   The zoo has no real basis for this claim, and the experience of Maggie clearly shows that elephants are social by nature once they are put into an environment that meets their biological and behavioural needs where they can behave naturally.  


Experts worldwide agree that female elephants should never be housed alone.  The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards indicate that “Elephants are social animals and should not be kept alone.”  The Best Practices by the Coalition of Captive Elephant Well-Being, 2005 requires that “Asian elephants shall be held in groups no smaller than 5 adults”.   Even the Valley Zoo’s own Master Plan Update - 2005 (Section 6.3.1) summarized appropriate minimum standards for elephant care including a minimum of 3 to 5 female elephants all of the same species.  


The Valley Zoo document goes on to say that some of the reasons the zoo wants to keep Lucy is because “Lucy is a zoo icon”, “The zoo would lose its cause célèbre for fundraising” and “ the zoo will lose attendance” if Lucy leaves the zoo.  


“Lucy must be moved to a sanctuary to relieve her distress.  If this zoo really wanted the best for her, they would put their petty concerns about losing their fundraising icon behind the need to relieve Lucy’s pain and suffering” stated Woodyer


For more information:

Julie Woodyer: 1-888-801-3222 (office, toll free), 416-451-5976 (cell)

Tove Reece: 780-922-4176 or 780-918-5385