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PAWS response to Lucy's Fact Sheet


The fact sheet about Lucy, the elephant, recently published by Edmonton Valley Zoo reflects all the anthropomorphic, sentimental, unscientific and unsubstantiated fiction which is often attributed to over-zealous animal activists.

To suggest that it is permissible to deprive an elephant the opportunity to cohabit with other elephants because they are "imprinted on people" is such an outrageous statement, the responses are almost unnecessary. Elephants are highly social, and will imprint on almost any companion if they live in a solitary environment, but no human is capable of providing the rich, social interaction that occurs within an elephant community.

After thirty-five years of living with elephants, raising orphaned juvenile elephants and nurturing sick and diseased elephants, I cannot imagine an instance when any elephant would prefer the company of humans to that of other elephants. They readily accept us as part of their world, but an elephant's involvement with people is usually the product of the very human need to have an elephant companion or mascot. Indeed, Lucy's role at the zoo appears to be that of a well cared for mascot whose "zoo family" is replacing elephant society. Based on this concept, other zoos should be able to keep single elephants with people who can provide "emotional support" (whatever that is).

Ambiguous statements like: "Lucy is a content and well-adjusted elephant" beg the question: HOW DO YOU KNOW?

Scientists and behaviorists have struggled for years trying to develop a formula for assessing the well-being of elephants.

Preventing animals from performing highly motivated behaviors can lead to the development of stereotypic behaviors (Wiedenmeyer & Tanner 1995). Sadly, the zoo's description of Lucy's "anticipatory behavior" as "anticipating a visit from a favorite person or going on a walk or other stimulating event" is a chilling example of stereotypic behavior. The perception that going on a walk and visiting with a favorite person is some special "stimulating event" speaks volumes about her life. Companions and space in which to move, explore, browse, forage, dust and mud bathe should not be "treats" dispensed to Lucy on special occasions during a nine or ten hour work day.

Lucy's health issues are not manageable unless they are properly diagnosed and treated. The zoo has been asked on numerous occasions to allow a team of elephant veterinarians to examine her. We have just learned that a leading veterinarian sedated her on September 10th and found an unusual obstruction in her trunk which is inhibiting her breathing. Obviously, a program of treatment must be initiated as soon as possible to alleviate that problem, but keeping her confined indoors for long periods of time is not beneficial, and may have contributed to the condition.

Arthritis is a serious, often fatal condition in elephants which is reported to be caused by limited movement, confinement in small areas and standing on hard surfaces (concrete). It usually develops in poor environments and wild elephants do not appear to suffer from arthritis. There is no cure for arthritis, but climate is a major factor in treating the condition, and it is disingenuous to suggest that "daily walks" can substitute for free-ranging in larger areas.

Lucy's current health problems are a serious indication that Lucy, despite the best efforts of her "zoo family" is not thriving in the frigid environment of Edmonton with only human companions. We agree that she cannot be moved until these conditions are treated and alleviated, but further delay in developing meaningful treatment may cause more damage.

We urge Edmonton Valley Zoo to cooperate in a dedicated effort to improve the quality of Lucy's life. No one believes that a few hours of walks and human companions can compensate for the long hours of solitary confinement and boredom which she endures.

Edmonton Valley Zoo's Fact Sheet on Lucy

Fact Sheet
Lucy, the elephant at Edmonton’s Valley Zoo

Lucy’s health

Lucy is a content and well adjusted elephant. She has two manageable health issues:
Lucy has a respiratory problem due to an inflammation of membranes in her nasal region that compromises her ability to breathe properly.

At this time, the reason for the constrictions is unknown. Lucy’s veterinarian Dr. Milton Ness, in consultation with a leading North American elephant veterinarian Dr. James Oosterhuis, and other experts in the field is developing a plan to treat and clarify the cause of Lucy's breathing challenge.

Lucy’s breathing issue is well managed at the Valley Zoo where she is calm and comfortable; however, moving her would be life threatening as her breathing would not be manageable during a stressful move.

Lucy’s only other ailment is arthritis, developed several years ago. Lucy receives excellent care in managing this condition, including regular physiotherapy exercises and daily walks.

Lucy has no foot issues. Great care is taken with Lucy’s feet. They are checked to be sure she hasn’t collected any pebbles or sticks during her long walks and conditioned twice a day as a preventative measure.

Lucy’s overall well being
Lucy’s veterinarian and other elephant specialists agree that Lucy needs to stay in Edmonton where she is comfortable, calm and well cared for.

Lucy is imprinted on people, meaning she gets her emotional support from people, not elephants. She has been at the Valley Zoo for 32 of her 34 years.

Lucy would miss her zoo family – the people who interact with her everyday – and her involvement with people if moved.

“Stereotypic” behaviour
Some who do not know Lucy have said she demonstrates “stereotypic” behaviour, in other words, behaviour indicating she is lethargic or stressed. This is not correct. This misperception stems from zoo visitors seeing Lucy for only a snapshot in time. This behaviour is actually “anticipatory” behaviour. This means that Lucy will get excited and sway or stomp her feet when she is anticipating a favourite event or visitor.

Canadian Zoos and Aquariums Standards & Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Regulations
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is accredited by the Canadian Zoos and Aquariums Association (CAZA). CAZA standards allow for keeping a single elephant in cases where it is justified. CAZA acknowledges that Lucy’s current breathing issue requires she stay at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development department is responsible for granting zoo permits annually. They also acknowledge that Lucy’s unique circumstance requires that she stay at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

The Valley Zoo is a CAZA accredited facility and holds a zoo permit from Alberta’s SRD department.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the Health of Animals Act which includes regulations for the humane transport of animals in Canada. CFIA recognizes that Lucy’s breathing issue makes it unsafe for her to travel and transporting her would contravene the Health of Animals Act.

Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

(209) 745-2606 office/shelter
(209) 745-1809 fax

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