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FAQ About Lucy...

What are Lucy's medical problems?

Lucy suffers from arthritis, foot disease, obesity, a sleep disorder, stereotypy and an undiagnosed respiratory condition.

Why do elephants die early in zoos?

They develop zoo induced ailments such as arthritis, foot

disease, obesity and stereotypy (more commonly known

as Zoochosis) which all lead to premature death. None of

these serious conditions are found in wild elephants.  Foot

disease and arthritis are the most common causes of death

in zoo elephants. It has been determined that zoo elephants

die 20-30 years earlier than their counterparts in the wild and

in sanctuaries.

A vintage postcard from the zoo. Lucy looks to be maybe 4 or 5 in this photo?   Photo credit: Unknown

Is Lucy old?

No. She is only in her late 40's. Elephants can live as long as humans.

Where is Lucy from and how did she get to Edmonton?

Lucy is from Sri Lanka and therefore is an Asian elephant. Lucy was 2 years old and was at the notorius Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage when she was sold to the Edmonton Zoo by a wildlife broker. Details as to how she got to Edmonton and how she became orphaned are unclear. Most baby

elephants are captured when their mothers are poached.

Why are many zoos closing their elephant exhibits?

Elephants have a significantly reduced lifespan in zoos and due to their need for vast areas to roam, zoos cannot meet their needs.  Elephants suffer more in zoos than nearly all other species. They experience significant emotional trauma in captivity due to their intelligence and emotional/social needs. The Edmonton Valley Zoo has gone on record stating that they recognize their exhibit does not meet the needs of an elephant, so therefore they will be closing the exhibit after Lucy dies.  Despite admitting to the inadequacy of the exhibit, they have refused to retire Lucy to a more appropriate climate.

Lucy the Elephant LEAP
Lucy the Elephant LEAP

What is wrong with Lucy's enclosure?

Lucy's enclosure is tiny and barren. It lacks anything resembling

an elephant's natural habitat. It is less than a half acre which is

not enough space to allow her adequate exercise. There are only

painted trees in her concrete enclosure, Lucy has never had a

place to swim or to have a mud bath. Both activities are normal

daily activities for Asian elephants. Lucy could have benefited a

great deal from a pool or pond to take weight off her arthritic

joints and increase her exercise. A study was undertaken which

shows Lucy spent more than 2/3rds of her life indoors.

In addition, the hard surfaces both indoors and outdoors exacerbate Lucy's Arthritis and foot disease.

Lucy's barn interior shots     Photo Credit: Sam Whincup

Is the cold climate harmful to Lucy?

Lucy is the northernmost elephant in North America.  The cold

climate in Edmonton is harmful to Lucy and is contributing to

her zoo induced conditions.  Lucy is forced to stay indoors for prolonged periods of time due to low temperatures. The massive reduction in space, decreased activity levels and loss

of autonomy is known to lead to frustration, boredom, the

development of abnormal behaviours and compromised mental

stability.  Confinement indoors can also be a significant factor

to foot problems (through extended exposure to unnatural

substrates), circulatory issues and obesity. Cold temperatures

also exacerbate arthritis and may be contributing to Lucy's

undiagnosed respiratory condition.

Lucy the Elephant LEAP

One of Lucy's walks in the snow  Photo Credit: Mary-Ann Holm

Is Lucy too old and/or too sick to be safely transported to a sanctuary?

Older and much sicker elephants are routinely transported throughout the world. Neither one of the two US sanctuaries, PAWS in California or The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (TES), has ever lost an elephant in transport, and they've transported dozens of older, sick and arthritic elephants.  The Edmonton Valley Zoo states Lucy would not survive being moved which they base on one elephant veterinarian who works in the zoo and circus industry. Advocates are simply requesting that a second opinion from world renowned experts be allowed. To date, the zoo has turned down offers from experts who are willing to examine Lucy. All costs for such an exam will be covered, there will be no cost to the zoo or to the City of Edmonton.

Is Lucy a people elephant? Does she prefer the company of humans over elephants?

This is one of the ridiculous claims made by the Edmonton Valley Zoo about Lucy. Lucy has NEVER had the opportunity to socialize with her own species so nobody knows how she would interact with other Asian elephants. Many solitary elephants have been successfully reintegrated into herds in sanctuaries and there is no reason to assume Lucy would have any problems doin so as well.


Lucy was housed with an African elephant named Samantha many years ago. The zoo claims they did not get along.  That's not surprising since they are two different species. Reputable facilities would never house African and Asian elephants together. Sadly, Samantha received a serious injury to her trunk due to negligence at the EVZ and was later transferred to North Carolina where she remains today. Lucy has remained alone ever since.

Lucy and Samantha LEAP

Samantha (L) and Lucy (R) sharing a small area

Photo Credit: Unknown

If Lucy was retired, where could she go & how would she get there? Who would pay for it?

She would go to one of two US sanctuaries. Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) in California or the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (TES) (See links at bottom of the page). Lucy would be carefully assessed by a panel of elephant veterinarians and experts to ensure that she's healthy enough for transport (which we believe she is). Lucy would be gradually crate trained, for weeks or months, to willingly enter and feel comfortable inside a transport crate, just like the three former Toronto Zoo elephants were. Once Lucy is accustomed to her crate, she would not be stressed by it and would be ready to be moved.

If Lucy were driven to sanctuary, her crate would be secured on a flatbed truck and an expert, professional team of elephant transport professionals, zoo veterinarians and elephant keepers, sanctuary elephant managers and support staff would accompany Lucy's truck, stopping frequentlty for vet checks, food, water, rest and waste removal.  PAWS and TES are both only a 2-3 day road trip from the Valley Zoo and we have every confidence that Lucy would arrive safely.

To see how professionally and carefully Lucy would be transported, please watch the documentary by CBC's 'The Fifth Estate' program, of the Toronto Zoo elephants' transfer to PAWS in 2013 - Lucy is included in the documentary at 24:18. Click here for the link.

A small section of PAWS in California   Photo credit: Lisa Jeffries, PAWS.

Does keeping elephants in zoos help the conservation of the species?

Zoos argue that they support elephant conservation projects directly but for the most part the support offered is minimal. For zoos to make a valuable contribution to conservation a significantly higher proportion of funds raised would be channeled towards research and conservation of wild elephants.

Even captive breeding programs do not help elephant populations as zoos are not returning them to the wild nor do they have any intention to do so. Many baby elephants born into captivity or die at birth or in utero. Lucy was sent on two breeding loans to the Calgary Zoo, but never successfully conceived a baby. Had she not been captured from the wild she may have been able to contribute to the Asian elephant population in Sri Lanka.

Is viewing elephants in captivity educational?

There is no empirical evidence supporting the notion that viewing elephants in captivity provides a positive educational experience or that it in any way results in any kind of behaviour change (or positive conservation outcomes) that benefit elephants in the wild.

In many zoos, the actual time spent watching an elephant is minimal. For example, a 2010 study conducted by Zoocheck Canada showed that on average the Toronto Zoo visitors spent less than two minutes observing elephants, with a mean time of just 77 seconds.

Scientific studies show that education and the production of a positive conservation outcome requires time. If people are spending less than two minutes in front of an exhibit before moving on, there is little to be learned except for the size, shape and colour of the animal (and for elephants who are prone to obesity, even that may be distorted!)

Lucy the Elephant Yard LEAP

Lucy's barn (in blue) and her outside area

Photo credit: Google Earth with graphics by Sam Whincup

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