Protesters rally to free Lucy the elephant from Edmonton Valley Zoo

A group of animal rights activists gathered at the Whitemud overpass Saturday, calling for the release of Lucy the elephant from the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Lucy is nearing her 45th year at the zoo, she was brought in as a two-year-old orphan in the 70s, the zoo’s director told CTV News Edmonton in March.

The protesters are calling for Lucy to be sent to an elephant sanctuary, saying the conditions at the zoo and in the Edmonton climate are harmful to her.

“Lucy suffers from a number of health conditions, but every single one of them can be contributed to captivity,” said Mary-Ann Holm, the founder of Lucy’s Edmonton Advocates’ Project (LEAP). “She also has arthritis and foot disease and those two are the biggest killers of elephants, they are the reason elephants die prematurely in zoos.

“She needs to be somewhere she can walk on soft earth and she also needs a place to swim.”

Holm added that Lucy is 453 kg overweight, which puts strain on her joints. In March, the zoo announced it is working to create a wading pool for Lucy, which would be therapeutic.

Elephants in zoos don’t often live past the age of 50, but elephants in sanctuaries can live decades longer, according to Holm.

“The city and the zoo have been misleading the public by implying that Lucy is old, when she’s really just a middle-aged elephant,” added Holm.

LEAP did a poll in the city in 2021 and found 66 per cent of respondents supported moving Lucy to a sanctuary where she could be with other elephants.

Over the years many groups have called for Lucy to be moved, but the zoo has said due to Lucy’s health issues, she may not survive the trip.

In 2021, the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada was one of the groups calling for Lucy to be relocated, but changed its stance after a review. The institute added that “the risks of moving Lucy outweigh the potential benefits to her.”

Free The Wild, a charity group co-founded by Cher, is in negotiations with the Edmonton Valley Zoo to send in international experts to assess whether Lucy could survive being relocated, added Holm.

“We don’t want her to move if it’s not safe, so we’re just asking to bring in international species experts, who have no vested interest in whether Lucy stays or goes, to make the call about what would be best for her remaining years,” said Holm.

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