Zoocheck Canada/Voice for Animals
For Immediate Release
December 24, 2007
Since Samantha was sent away on a minimum 5 year breeding loan in September, Lucy, the Asian Elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, has been alone. 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. And over the past few years Lucy has also been experiencing recurring respiratory infections. All of these conditions are likely attributable to her captivity in Edmonton’s cold climate and the small enclosure in which she lives.
Lucy is locked inside a building during inclement weather and for 17.5 hours per day when the zoo is closed and the staff have gone home. After reviewing Environment Canada’s weather records for 2006, it was determined that Lucy is locked in more than 75% of her time.
In Alberta, the new zoo regulations make it is illegal to keep animals in inappropriate social groupings. However the Edmonton Humane Society has reported to Zoocheck Canada that the zoo has told them that Lucy is in such physical distress that she cannot be moved. “That leaves Lucy between a rock and a very hard place.” says Julie Woodyer, Campaigns Director for Zoocheck Canada, “Her captivity in Edmonton is what is making her ill and yet the zoo claims they cannot move her because she is too sick. We are very concerned that the EHS may be accepting the zoo’s word rather than bringing in experts from outside to offer an opinion before leaving Lucy at a zoo, that despite all best efforts, has been unable to relieve her distress. The only way to give her an opportunity to heal is to move Lucy to a large facility with other elephants in a warmer climate.”
Zoo and circus elephants with respiratory and foot problems (including arthritis) are moved around all the time. In November of this year, Maggie, an African elephant who had gone down and was unable to get up without the assistance of the fire department’s equipment on more than one occasion in the past year, was moved from the zoo in Alaska to a sanctuary in California and is doing very well in her new home, socializing with other elephants. She was accompanied by veterinarians and experts in moving elephants to ensure her safety during the move.
The Elephant Sanctaury, a specialized, 2700 acre facility in Tennessee have agreed to take Lucy and have moved numerous elephants with the same physical problems Lucy has without incident. The Sanctuary has offered to have their experts examine Lucy to determine if she can be moved or offer advice about how to get her into a condition that she can be moved. The Sanctuary’s veterinarians and staff are among the most experienced in elephant care in North America.
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 Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, of which the Valley Zoo is a member, has guidelines for elephant care which state that “It is inappropriate to keep highly social female elephants singly:”
The Valley Zoo management have been attempting to claim that Lucy is different from all other elephants by saying that she prefers the company of humans to elephants. Anyone who visited the elephants at the Valley Zoo in the past could see that Lucy and Samantha were social with each other and the zoo officials have also admitted to this fact.
In addition, Valley Zoo officials presented a Master Plan to the Edmonton City Council in 2005 which included plans for the elephants. One option that was put forward in the official plan was to send Lucy to another facility to be with other elephants if Samantha were sent away on a breeding loan. “They obviously understood Lucy to be a social animal when they put together this official master plan for the zoo” stated Tove Reece, spokesperson for Voice 4 Animals. “Lucy must be moved in order 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 provide an opportunity to relieve Lucy’s pain and suffering”
Julie Woodyer: 1-888-801-3222 (office, toll free), 416-451-5976 (cell)
Tove Reece: 780-922-4176 or 780-918-5385
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