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Edmonton Zoo lacks courage - still a need for an independent review

posted 27 Dec 2019, 13:37 by Rob Laidlaw   [ updated 27 Dec 2019, 13:49 ]

Opinion Piece - Zoocheck Inc. (December 2019)

The Edmonton Valley Zoo recently released three new veterinary reports about Lucy. Under the direction of their new zoo director, they reportedly claimed they'd be having a fresh look at Lucy's situation. Zoo management kept quiet about who they were contracting to conduct the review of Lucy's health until the actual reports were released. As we expected, they chose not to use any of the expert elephant veterinarians recommended by animal welfare groups and the outcome of this veterinary review was exactly what most Lucy advocates predicted. 

The zoo's veterinary team consisted of the same US-based consultant veterinarian the Edmonton Valley Zoo has used for years, a second US veterinarian who spent approximately seven years working at the Ringling Bros.[circus] Elephant Conservation Center in Florida and a third veterinarian from Calgary who specializes in horses. The reports they produced were extremely brief, being 9, 3 and 2 pages long respectively.

It wasn't at all surprising to Lucy advocates that the zoo veterinarians editorialized in their reports, including offering criticisms of elephant sanctuaries. Nor was the lack of substantive new recommendations regarding how to improve Lucy's psychological and social health surprising. 

This latest move by the zoo shows that they still lack the courage to reach outside of their own industry and its entrenched views.  If Lucy's best interests were the priority, they'd be chomping at the bit to have new elephant veterinarians, elephant biologists and elephant sanctuary operators into the zoo to conduct a review and to offer advice (and this has been offered free of charge to the zoo on numerous occasions). Instead, the zoo management remains intransigent and continues to defend the keeping of a socially isolated female elephant in a small, outdated exhibit in a completely inappropriate climate.

The zoo management also doesn't seem to acknowledge or factor in the potential health and welfare benefits Lucy would experience if she were in a better environment. This is something other relocated elephants have experienced when moved to enhanced, more natural, spacious conditions. When the Calgary Zoo moved its elephants, officials  said they recognized there was a risk in the transport, but that the potential risk was outweighed by the enormous benefits that could be achieved for the animals. In other words, the risk was worth the return. The same goes for Lucy.

And if one accepts the zoo's claim that Lucy is too sick to be moved, there should be a far more comprehensive and proactive drive to come up with ways of making Lucy's life better for as long as she remains alive. After more than 40 years at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, she still lives in a small, boring exhibit with little to do. She's never even had a pool to submerge in. And the zoo management should also be devising ways of bringing the zoo into compliance with the Alberta zoo standards regarding Lucy. That alone might provide some relief to her.

The struggle to help Lucy continues and the need for a independent expert review remains. And the Edmonton Valley Zoo should, at the least, be required to comply with the Alberta zoo standards. If they don't have to, then why do the standards even exist. Please continue writing to the Premier of Alberta asking that the province's zoo standards be enforced! Check out the Take Action for Lucy page on this site for more information.

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