A protest organised by the Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE) in conjunction with the Canadian advocacy group Lucy’s Edmonton Advocacy Project (LEAP) is to take place on Friday, 26 March 2021 outside the Canadian High Commission in Colombo at 3 p.m. in support of Lucy, a 46-year-old Sri Lankan elephant currently housed at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada.
Lucy is a Sri Lankan elephant who was sold by a German wildlife dealer to the Edmonton Zoo in Canada at the age three and has since remained there for the past 44 years. At the zoo, Lucy resides alone in a small enclosure with painted trees.
RARE stated that her unsatisfactory living arrangements coupled with the unnatural cold climate have resulted in Lucy suffering from several captivity-related health issues such as arthritis, foot disease, obesity, sleep disorder, stereotypy, and an undiagnosed respiratory condition.
In 2006, Zoocheck, a Canadian-based international wildlife protection organisation, engaged Dr. Winnie Kiiru, an elephant expert from Kenya, to assess all elephant facilities in Canada. As part of this project, Dr. Kiiru visited Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. In her report, she described the outdoor elephant enclosure at the zoo as having no vegetation and the ground being mainly earth.
“Although there was ample vegetation outside the enclosure, the elephants had no access to it. There were no rocks to rub against or any pools of water to drink from or to wallow in. Lucy displayed the typical rocking motion of a distressed or bored elephant,” the report said.
In January 2010, Zoocheck Campaign Director Julie Woodyer, Voice for Animals Humane Society Director Tove Reece, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) joined forces to file a lawsuit against the city of Edmonton on Lucy’s behalf. The legal application included the argument of moving Lucy to a warmer, less hostile climate because the elephant experts believe that her inadequate living conditions had aggravated her chronic health issues. However, these applications were dismissed on grounds of legal technicalities and the appeal was dismissed.
Pro Elephant Network in 2021, with the support of Jane Goodall, a renowned primatologist and anthropologist, wrote a letter declaring Lucy’s plight, in which they stated that the Edmonton Valley Zoo administrators have not once allowed an independent medical and psychological assessment of Lucy and that the zoo administrators commission their own specialists to conduct medical checks on Lucy.
Speaking with the RARE Communications and Activism Co-ordinator, she commented that the call is for Lucy to be evaluated with a view of being transferred to an accredited sanctuary. She stated that whilst Lucy has been evaluated by several vets, she has never been evaluated by an expert independent of the zoo or circus industries or one with knowledge of the benefits sanctuary can offer to an elephant.
The request is that Lucy be fully evaluated by a pachyderm expert with knowledge on sanctuaries, who is independent of the zoo/circus industries. She stated that the names of a number of such veterinarians have been put forward to the zoo by LEAP, including the mention of animal welfare organisation Four Paws International Director of Project Development and veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil. Dr. Khalil recently successfully transferred the elephant Kaavan from the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan to a sanctuary in Cambodia.
The RARE Co-ordinator shared that Kaavan too was around the same age as Lucy and that he travelled continents to get to his new forever home. She believes that if Lucy is able to be assessed, she too may be able to have the same happy ending as Kaavan.
Lucy has been offered a place at two fully accredited elephant sanctuaries in the US: Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary and PAWS in California. The RARE Co-ordinator stated that they believe that, considering it is not such a long distance for her to travel, it is worth the effort to look into assessing the situation, adding that there is resistance in allowing this assessment from the zoo as they are benefiting from having Lucy, because she is a rare attraction to have in a substandard zoo in Canada.
RARE stated that it is their belief that every effort should now be made towards allowing this elephant, who has suffered a lifetime of deprivation at the hands of humans, to enjoy her final months or years in the company of other elephants roaming freely with the sun on her back.