By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal
September 8, 2009
EDMONTON — Star Trek's William Shatner is lending his star power to a campaign to retire an Edmonton zoo elephant to an animal sanctuary.
In a short letter to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel dated Aug. 31, the man best known as Captain James T. Kirk said Lucy, the Valley Zoo's 33-year-old elephant, deserves to spend her old age in "better circumstances."
"Let me add my voice to the crescendo of voices asking for some relief in the fate of your beloved elephant, Lucy," Shatner wrote.
"In a way, it's none of our business — Edmonton can capably take care of its own. Yet, in a larger sense, these extraordinary animals are everybody's responsibility.
"So I humbly ask you to allow Lucy to retire to better circumstances than at the Edmonton Zoo . . . she's old, feeble, and many of us know how that feels. I hope you don't mind my intruding but the cause is just."
The mayor's office could not immediately confirm whether Mandel has received the letter. He was not immediately available to comment.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals circulated the letter in a news release Tuesday afternoon.
The group says Lucy suffers from respiratory problems, as well as arthritis and chronic foot ailments, which are leading causes of death among captive elephants. In addition, Edmonton's "long and frigid winters" force the elephant to spend most of her time indoors. At a sanctuary, Lucy would benefit from adequate space, suitable climate and the company of other elephants, the group says.
"No elephant should be deprived of interaction with others of her own kind in the name of 'entertainment,' " PETA Director Debbie Leahy said in the news release.
"We thank Mr. Shatner for adding his voice to this campaign to help a noble animal who cannot speak for herself."
Bob Barker, host of the long-running game show The Price is Right, has also called for the animal's release, along with authors Margaret Atwood, Barbara Gowdy and Michael Ondaatje. Zoocheck Canada and Voice for Animals Humane Society have also lobbied for her transfer to a sanctuary.
Valley Zoo operations manager Dean Treichel has repeatedly said Lucy's quality of life is good, and he is not willing to risk the elephant's life by moving her. He said she takes walks in good weather and has made staff members her "herd." She does not suffer constant pain or chronic depression, he said.
He has also said those who have criticized Lucy's care have never worked with her.
"I think she's in very good hands," he told the Edmonton Journal in May. "I think we do a very, very good job of caring for her."
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