Lucy's Health

For many years the Valley Zoo has claimed that Lucy is in good health but too sick to move. The zoo's own medical records show that for the past 25 years Lucy has been plagued with a range of health problems, some of them quite serious and many of them chronic. The kinds of medical issues experienced by Lucy have led to the deaths of other elephants in other facilities. Learn about several of Lucy's health issues by reading the rest of this page.

NOTE: The Valley Zoo and City of Edmonton have suggested that medical records have been misrepresented and that particular wording has been extracted and used out of context by Zoocheck and its partner organizations. To correct this erroneous suggestion, Zoocheck has posted copies of additional records obtained through Freedom of Information legislation. CLICK HERE to view the records.

Foot problems

Since 1989, Lucy has suffered from foot infections, including puss-filled, bleeding abscesses on her feet. Foot infections are a leading cause of death in captive elephants. Foot problems are often made worse by lack of exercise, overweight bodies, standing on hard earth or concrete floors and cool, damp conditions. Wild elephants typically have healthy feet because they walk long distances on natural surfaces which maintain their foot pads in a trim and well-conditioned state.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Lucy was diagnosed with RA in 1991 and is still being treated daily for pain. Arthritis is a common and serious ailment in elephants confined in zoos. It is a degenerative bone disease that affects the joints. It can be made worse by lack of exercise, being overweight, standing on hard earth or concrete floors and cool, damp conditions. Wild elephants are not known to suffer from arthritis.

Chronic respiratory problems

Since 2004, Lucy has displayed breathing problems such as wheezing, gurgling in her trunk and open mouth breathing. Even though her respiratory condition was first mentioned in the records five years ago, the zoo has still not provided a diagnosis.

Teeth Trouble

Lucy had a malpositioned tooth (meaning it has turned sideways in her mouth). This kind of tooth condition is often due to an inappropriate diet. Except for eye pain, tooth pain is known to be the most intense. The tooth fell out in 2009.


Lucy was diagnosed with the early stages of colic in August 2008. Colic is a digestive system disease that can cause a great deal of pain.


Lucy doesn't do very much, so she is overweight. The extra weight may make Lucy's arthritis and foot pain feel worse. Experts who have viewed Lucy have referred to her as grossly obese and weighing thousands of pounds more than a healthy wild female elephant of the same age.

Abnormal/Stereotypic behaviour

Lucy doesn't do very much. She's inactive a lot of the time (unlike normal elephants who are active up to 20 hours each day) and displays abnormal behaviours called stereotypies. Lucy engages in several stereotypies, the most prominent being rocking and stepping back and forth. These kinds of aberrant behaviours indicate an abnormal interaction between Lucy and her environment.