January 13, 2015 12:29 pm
Updated: January 13, 2015 4:33 pm

Edmonton zoo in ‘Hall of Shame’ over elephant

Bob Barker meets Lucy the elephant at Edmonton's River Valley Zoo on September 17, 2009. Animal welfare groups fighting to see a lone elephant at Edmonton's zoo moved to a sanctuary in the United States have been dealt a blow by Alberta's top court, Thursday Aug., 4, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ian Jackson


EDMONTON – An international animal rights group has named Edmonton’s Valley Zoo to a “Hall of Shame” for not moving its lone elephant named Lucy to a warmer climate.

Toni Frohoff with In Defense of Animals says the designation is reserved for zoos that refuse to make changes within a reasonable time that would benefit their elephants.

Various animal rights groups have been after the Edmonton zoo for years to move Lucy. They say Edmonton’s winter is too harsh for the elephant.

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READ MORE: Bob Barker takes Free Lucy campaign to elephant’s Edmonton zoo

“Lucy does receive excellent care at the zoo,” said Rob Smyth, Edmonton’s branch manager for community and recreation facilities. “There are very professional, dedicated staff at the zoo that have been caring for Lucy for 37 years.”

The zoo says Lucy has been examined by a veterinarian and deemed too sick to travel because of respiratory troubles.

“She’s well adjusted, content… I do need to acknowledge she has some health conditions that are manageable,” Smyth added. “When she’s in a strressful situation, it becomes a challenge for her to manage her breath.”

“Moving her would be too risky and we’re not willing to take that chance.”

Frohoff says the Valley Zoo has been on her California-based group’s annual Top 10 list of worst zoos four times. It was second last year, but escaped the list this year, although Frohoff says the “Hall of Shame” status is even worse.

“Unfortunately the Edmonton Valley Zoo has earned that dishonourable distinction. They have the opportunity to be heroes, but instead they are choosing to be villains by allowing Lucy to stay,” she said.

“Other elephant experts, some of them extremely notable, have denounced the Edmonton Valley Zoo as creating amongst the most cruel … environments for elephants in zoos.”

In Defense of Animals is calling on city council to make a change.

“Long-term, once Lucy passes away, we will not replace her,” says Smyth. “We will not have elephants at the zoo.”

“We are doing what we think is in the best interest of Lucy,” he explained, adding the 39-year-old elephant is close with her keepers and has a high-quality of life.

The Calgary and Toronto zoos no longer have any elephants after moving them to warmer climates in the United States.

With files from Global News

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