September 20, 2009
Letter to the Editor, Edmonton Journal
Re: "Move could kill Lucy: vet; San Diego specialist says shipping elephant would be akin to signing her death warrant," The Journal, Sept. 15.
The vet that the Valley Zoo has on their payroll, Dr. Milton Ness, is not an elephant expert.
The vet that Dr. Ness and the Valley Zoo have been consulting with, Dr. James Oosterhuis, the principal vet at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in California, has had the same position on Lucy's plight for years, regardless of her health and emotional concerns.
However, what the public most likely doesn't know is that when the Alaska zoo consulted 11 experts on the possibility of transporting their lone female elephant, Maggie, to a sanctuary, Dr. Oosterhuis was the only one who recommended that Maggie stay in Alaska.
Maggie was successfully moved to a California elephant sanctuary two years ago and is thriving among her own kind.
The Valley Zoo has tried to keep Lucy comfortable either by herself or with a non-elephant companion.
The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) has stated: "It is inappropriate to keep highly social female elephants singly long term."
It is obvious that the Valley Zoo is doing exactly the opposite of what it should be doing as a member of CAZA.
Lucy sways back and forth -- a behaviour typical of confined and isolated elephants. She is bored and listless and needs a more enriched environment to live out her days.
The Valley Zoo could bring in another elephant to keep Lucy company. But the problem with that is elephants do not thrive in a zoo environment.
Elephants in zoos typically live to age 40, whereas in the wild they can live to 60 or older.
If Lucy were to have an elephant companion, eventually one of them will die and the other will again be alone with the same problems that we're facing right now. And by then, the elephant really won't be fit for transport as she'll be older and in worse shape.
Elephants need to be in a herd with many of their own kind, living as close to a natural life as they can.
The Valley Zoo should do what the Alaska zoo did. Bring in multiple veterinary consultants and let the experts speak for themselves.
As far as the activists, such as myself, are concerned, Dr. Ness and Dr. Oosterhuis has vested interests in advising the zoo that Lucy is not fit to move. Why are they so afraid to bring in other veterinarians? This is the question that Edmontonians need to keep in mind whenever the zoo calls one of their propaganda news conferences.
The fact that people are so irritated that Lucy has become the focus for so many celebrities confuses me.
Why is it such a problem that celebrities-- who are just people--are so concerned with Lucy's situation? Should they all turn a blind eye to such treatment just because they are celebrities, or don't live in Edmonton? Would it be OK for the rest of the world to turn a blind eye to a child being mistreated?Or someone beating their dog?
Animal suffering has no boundaries, and Lucy's suffering does not end at the city limits.
Stacie Jaye Shinewald, Edmonton
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