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article imagePETA Suing City of Edmonton Over Elephant

By Caroline Menzies     Feb 2, 2010 in Environment
Elephants do not belong in Canadian zoos, according to PETA and other animal rights groups. As a last resort to try to have Lucy, the sole elephant at Edmonton Valley Zoo, moved to a sanctuary, PETA has initiated a lawsuit against the City of Edmonton.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) today announced their joint initiation with Zoo Check Canada of a lawsuit against the City of Edmonton on behalf of 34 year old Lucy the Elephant, a resident of Edmonton Valley Zoo. Lucy, an orphaned Asian elephant, whose real name is Skanik, has been living at the zoo for 32 years. At the time of her adoption from a Sri Lankan elephant orphanage, her age was estimated to be around 2.
PETA claims that she is isolated and should be allowed to socialize with other elephants for optimal health and well being, that her enclosure is too small, and that the climate of Edmonton is too harsh for an Asian elephant.
The lawsuit states" I urge you to act in the best interests of Lucy, the solitary elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, by doing whatever is necessary to ensure her timely transfer to a sanctuary. The Government of Alberta Standards for Zoos states that animals must be kept in appropriate social groupings, but Lucy has been alone for more than two years.
At a sanctuary, Lucy would have the opportunity to roam acres of natural habitat, the companionship of other elephants, and a much more appropriate climate. After 30 years at the zoo, Lucy deserves a peaceful sanctuary retirement.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter."
Up until about 3 years ago, Lucy had a companion, Samantha, an African elephant, who severed her trunk in an accident involving a door lock. After her recovery, she was relocated to a sanctuary, leaving Lucy alone at the Edmonton Zoo. Lucy is kept in an open contact environment, meaning she has direct contact with handlers. While PETA states she is bored, isolated and depressed, a report dated November 13th, 2009, issued by the City of Edmonton indicates she has formed strong bonds with her human keepers. However, Lucy is ailing and the City of Edmonton states that a move at this time would be too stressful, given her current health issues, and could possibly be life threatening.
The report contains details of a "new wellness program for Lucy," developed by elephant veterinarian, Dr. James Oosterhuis, in consultation with Lucy’s own veterinarian, Dr. Milton Ness, in order to address Lucy's chronic health issues. She suffers from arthritis, obesity and foot infections, all conditions listed by PETA and the other groups as common among elephants in captivity. PETA states that the harshness of Canadian winters necessitate Lucy being confined to a barn for long periods, and even though her keepers take her for regular walks, it is not enough. They also state that even in good weather, there is not enough space for her to roam to the extent that she requires. Elephants in the wild walk up to 20 or more kilometers a day.
The Valley Zoo counters that Lucy was born with a developmental problem that has contributed to her foot issues. She was bow-legged and pigeon-toed, which causes her to walk unevenly, stressing certain areas of her feet. She has regular physiotherapy, and foot treatments, and is also on a diet.
Lucy also has an issue involving her nasal membranes, which inhibits normal breathing. She has been put on anti-inflammatories and antibiotics for the nasal problem and further procedures are planned if it doesn't soon clear up.
While the report from Dr. Oosterhuis states that Lucy is "a content and well-adjusted elephant with some manageable health issues," it also recommends that her treatments should be increased, the floor in her barn should be cushioned, and concedes that her enclosure is too small.
A comprehensive survey of all the elephants currently in zoos in Canada by Zoo Check Canada entitled, "The Sad State of Elephants in Captivity in Canada," paints a convincing picture of the deficiencies in the environments and care of all the elephants in captivity in Canada. They have singled out the Edmonton Valley Zoo as the worst, citing the extreme climate of Edmonton and the isolation of Lucy. She is currently the only elephant living alone in a Canadian zoo.
Voice For Animals Humane Society (V4A), who are also advocating for the relocation of Lucy, states that over 30 elephants have successfully been relocated to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee or PAWS, in California. The Tennessee Sanctuary, who have offered to pay for her transportation, consists of 2700 acres where Lucy could roam and form bonds with other elephants.
Elephants in the wild have a lifespan similar to humans. Some can live as long as 75 years. Elephants in captivity live half as long, according to a study published by Science, an online science journal.
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