The Valley Zoo website shows some very pretty pictures of Lucy walking outside in the summer sunshine. It does not show pictures of the concrete facility where she is kept when not on display to the public, which is the greater part of each 24 hour day. The number one cause of death for captive elephants is foot infection and arthritis and the concrete floor of the facility where Lucy is forced to stand while inside each day is directly contributing to the health problems that she suffers from.
“Each day, she takes a stroll through the Zoo to a back paddock for a long walk that she greatly enjoys”. (www.valleyzoo.ca)
Someone who had the opportunity to accompany Lucy on one of her walks has estimated the distance to be not more than one mile. Elephants in the wild easily walk distances over 45 miles per day, so Lucy is basically walking just a small percentage of the amount that she should be.
“It’s rare that Lucy doesn’t take her walk, but if the temperature is too extreme she prefers to stay indoors just like we do”. (www.valleyzoo.ca)
Lucy is kept indoors whenever the temperature falls to -10 C or colder. Since Edmonton experiences extremely cold temperatures during the winter months, Lucy is likely to be kept inside for consecutive months at a time. Cold morning temperatures preclude her from getting her daily walks since these occur in the early morning before the zoo is open to the general public. Why does the zoo say that Lucy “prefers” to be indoors as if to infer that Lucy has a choice in the matter?
“Dean Treichel, Supervisor of Animal Care and Operations says, “Lucy’s veterinarian and industry professionals believe any type of move would have severe consequences for her. Therefore, we believe the Valley Zoo is the best home for Lucy.” (www.valleyzoo.ca)
The zoo’s veterinarian is Dr. Milton Ness, who is also a small animal health instructor at NAIT. If the zoo is so sure that Lucy is not healthy enough to withstand the trip to a warmer climate, why has Dean Treichel rejected the idea of having Lucy’s health assessed by an independent veterinarian experienced in elephant physiology?
Since the zoo has not identified the “industry professionals” we can only assume the reference is to the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. If you search the CAZA website you will find two members listed for Edmonton, the Valley Zoo and West Edmonton Mall. CAZA states its position as “Representing the 25 leading zoological parks and aquariums in Canada”. Isn’t this a conflict of interest since CAZA is both representing and monitoring the same organization? It is interesting to note that CAZA states “It is inappropriate to keep highly social female elephants singly” (Accreditation process). This is because in the wild, female elephants never live alone. Yet, Lucy is kept without contact with others of her own kind.