Animal rights group ranks Edmonton zoo fourth-worst for elephants

Elephant handler Jackie Buck gives Lucy the elephant a Christmas present full of fruits and vegetables in Edmonton, Alta. on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005. CP PHOTO/Edmonton Journal/Greg Southam

Lucy the elephant lives “cramped,” “cold” and “alone” in an enclosure at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

And those are just three reasons why animal protection organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) ranked the zoo as the fourth-worst for elephants in North America for 2016 in its annual list released Tuesday.

It’s the seventh consecutive time that the zoo has made the list.

READ MORE: Edmonton zoo in ‘Hall of Shame’ over elephant

Lucy, a 41-year-old Asian elephant, has lived at the Edmonton Valley Zoo since 1977.

She has been alone there since 2007, when Samantha, an African elephant, was relocated to a zoo in North Carolina.

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IDA takes issue with a number of Lucy’s living conditions — among them, the fact that she doesn’t have a companion despite standards stating that elephants should be kept in groups.

But a special variance allows the Edmonton Valley Zoo to keep Lucy alone due to medical and welfare needs, according to The Globe and Mail.

‘Tragic existence’

IDA maintains that Lucy “lives a tragic existence for an elephant evolved to live in multi-generational herds and tropical weather.”

But in an Elephant Welfare Assessment released by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) last year, wildlife veterinarian Dr. Jonathan Cracknell was “impressed at the professionalism and wide-ranging opportunities provided by the elephant care team” at the zoo.

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

Lucy has nevertheless been at the centre of a campaign to have her relocated.

In 2008, Bob Barker, former host of TV game show The Price is Right, began a campaign to see Lucy moved to a sanctuary located in San Andreas, Calif.

Cracknell, however, said in his assessment that Lucy has breathing problems so serious that she could potentially die while being moved.

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Bob Barker meets Lucy the elephant at Edmonton\’s River Valley Zoo on September 17, 2009.
Bob Barker meets Lucy the elephant at Edmonton\’s River Valley Zoo on September 17, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ian Jackson

Animal advocacy group Friends of Lucy spent $250 to buy a large winter coat for the elephant in February 2015.

The zoo, however, turned the coat down, saying Lucy didn’t need it.

Zoo spokeswoman Debi Winwood said at the time that the coat would be donated to an elephant orphanage in Asia or Africa.

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