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
Is Lucy old?
No. She is only in her early 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.
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.
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.
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 doing 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.
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 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
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 frequently for vet checks, food, water, rest and waste removal. PAWS and TES are both only a 2-3 days 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 this documentary by the 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 link.
Costs for Lucy's transport would be covered and would not be the responsibility of the zoo or the City of Edmonton.
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!)
Samantha (L) and Lucy (R) sharing a small area
Photo Credit: Unknown
A vintage postcard from the zoo. Lucy looks to be maybe 4 or 5 in this photo? Photo credit: Unknown
A small section of PAWS in California Photo credit: Lisa Jeffries, PAWS.
Lucy's barn interior shots Photo Credit: Sam Whincup
One of Lucy's walks in the snow Photo Credit: Mary-Ann Holm
Lucy's barn (in blue) and her outside area
Photo credit: Google Earth with graphics by Sam Whincup