by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
We are told Lucy has a tooth problem. But what is being done to fix it? Perhaps nothing. We know that Lucy is being kept all by herself, which is, in fact, illegal. We are also told that Lucy is better off where she is, than being sent to a place where she could be much more free, and no longer alone. And we are told that Lucy is well-loved. And who the heck is Lucy, anyway?
Lucy is an Asian elephant, and as I write this she is held in Valley Zoo in Edmonton, Alberta, where she has had a series of medical problems stemming back to 1980. She has had respiratory problems since 2004. It’s cold in Alberta in winter, and she was often confined to what is called a “compact enclosure” with a cement floor, through some fiercely cold winter weather. Under provincial legislation it is unlawful to keep zoo animals apart from the appropriate social context. Elephants are, by nature, very social animals.
Both the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in California are happy to take Lucy and allow her to roam large spaces in company with others of her kind, thus providing the social context she needs for a more healthy, more normal life. Television personality Bob Barker has publicly lobbied for Lucy’s transfer to one of these sanctuaries.
But the media are told that Lucy has a “malpositioned molar” that compromises her breathing. No one is sure what that means.
And yet Lucy, a star attraction, is on public display.
So, she’s too ill to be moved on the one hand, but on the other hand we are told by the zoo that she is “calm, well-adjusted and extremely well-cared for.”
Which is it?
We are working to get Lucy moved to a sanctuary where she can get medical treatment as required, and roam freely with her own species, as an elephant should. Will we succeed? It is too soon to say, but stay tuned and I’ll let you know.