March 3rd, 2024

Lucy the elephant doing well, despite ongoing health issues, Edmonton zoo says

By Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press on December 13, 2023.

Lucy the elephant is shown at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Edmonton on Tuesday March 21, 2023. A new health assessment of the beloved and well-known elephant indicates her health is improving. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – An assessment of the beloved and well-known elephant named Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo says her health is improving.

A news release from the zoo Wednesday said two independent elephant veterinarians assessed Lucy in October 2023 following an exam last year.

Although her health has improved, it says the veterinarians have advised that the 48-year-old elephant stay at the zoo, despite demands from animal rights groups over the years that she be transferred to a sanctuary in a warmer climate.

“It is important to be able to compare this year’s assessment with their findings from last year and allow them to follow up on the medical issues they identified in 2022,” zoo director Gary Dewar said in the release. “Our team works very hard to ensure Lucy continues to receive excellent care.”

The assessment last year showed that the Asian elephant has a severe condition of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels in her blood and tissues, which makes her breathe solely from her mouth.

The experts also discovered that the overweight elephant had a uterine tumour that is common in female elephants that have never given birth.

In the recent assessment, the veterinarians found the tumour shrank, “likely as a result of the recommended vaccine treatment,” the zoo said.

Changes to Lucy’s diet have also resulted in her losing 625 kilograms over the past year.

“The veterinarians noted her body condition has noticeably improved and that her feet are now in excellent condition given her age,” the release said.

The zoo has been working closely with the animal advocacy group Free the Wild and the city of Edmonton.

It said capital funding from the city helped improve conditions for Lucy, including increased access to indoor and outdoor space, improvement to her enclosure’s ventilation system and UV lighting.

“We will continue to invest in providing a varied enrichment program that focuses on promoting species specific behavioural opportunities through cognitive, occupational and physical enrichments,” Dewar said in the release.

“We will also continue to provide Lucy with a high level of interaction with her care team while further specializing her care program to reflect her changing age and health status.”

Lucy has been in semi-retirement since 2020 and is no longer on public display. However, she continues to engage with her team of caretakers.

Former “The Price is Right” game show host Bob Barker and other celebrities have joined animal rights groups in a high-profile campaign urging the zoo to move Lucy to a sanctuary in the United States.

The groups, including Zoocheck and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, have said Lucy was overweight, lonely and plagued with health problems.

PETA also turned to the legal system to move Lucy. In 2012, it took the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, where its application was dismissed.

The veterinarians advised Lucy should continue to call the Edmonton zoo home because of her severe respiratory problems, the zoo said Wednesday.

It said stress and mild physical activity make the condition worse.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2023.

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