Famous animal activist Jane Goodall is urging Edmonton City Council to “free Lucy the lonely elephant” and let her retire “in a more humane setting.”
Goodall is best known for her 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees.
She posted a video message Tuesday, asking that Lucy be transferred from the Edmonton Valley Zoo to a sanctuary in Tennessee.
“Lucy is a very lonely elephant,” Goodall says in the video. “Of course there are people who care about and love and care for Lucy but that can’t make up for the lack of elephant companionship.”
Goodall says elephants are highly intelligent and extremely social and Lucy is the only elephant at the zoo. The activist says elephants develop friendships that last throughout their lives, they recognize each other, are sentient and share similar emotions to humans: joy, sorrow, grief and pain.
“Each day she spends at the zoo is another day of sadness, and especially during your long, cold, dark winter,” Goodall says.
“There’s a wonderful and accredited sanctuary in Tennessee that’s offered to take her in. I know there are concerns as to whether Lucy is healthy enough to be moved but other older elephants have been successfully transported over long distances.
“I beg of you to invite an independent veterinarian with an appropriate knowledge of elephants to examine Lucy and determine how best she can be prepared for and supported for her journey.”
Lucy, a 45-year-old Asian elephant, has lived at Edmonton’s zoo since 1977. The zoo has long maintained that moving her to a sanctuary would worsen her condition or kill her.
In 2016, Lucy’s condition was reviewed by an independent veterinarian. At the time the vet said Lucy was suffering from dental and respiratory issues even then, but if the zoo chose to move her she was “highly likely” to “potentially” die en route to a sanctuary.
The latest examination, performed in November 2019 by the University of Calgary School of Veterinary Medicine, showed that Lucy has several respiratory and molar issues.
According to Lindsey Galloway, executive director of the Edmonton Valley Zoo, moving the elderly elephant would be “unethical.” Instead, the zoo plans to make changes to her enclosure and routine to make her as comfortable as possible.
The zoo reportedly plans on reaching out to outside experts who specialize in working with geriatric elephants to learn more about what could be done for Lucy.
Animal rights activists have been calling for Lucy to be moved for a number of years, citing things like the elephant’s cramped space, Edmonton’s cold weather and the fact that Lucy is alone as reasons to relocate her.
The November 2019 examination found results continue to show that Lucy the elephant should not be moved to a sanctuary.
Read more: City of Edmonton defending Lucy’s care after ‘dishonourable mention’ on Worst Zoos for Elephants list
However, in her video, Goodall stresses Lucy should be in a place “where she can enjoy the companionship of other elephants.”
“It seems to me that after the four decades Lucy has ‘worked’ for your city, she has earned her retirement in a more humane setting.”
The Jane Goodall Act was recently introduced in the Senate of Canada. Sen. Murray Sinclair said he has teamed up with primatologist Goodall to propose a law to protect captive animals and ban imports of elephant ivory and hunting trophies into Canada.
Sinclair says the bill would ban new captivity of great apes and elephants unless it’s licensed and for their best interests, including for conservation and non-harmful scientific research. That would allow courts to issue orders to move them to new care or to improve their living conditions.
Bill S-218 had its first reading on Nov. 17.
“This is exactly the sort of inappropriate conditions the Jane Goodall Act would prohibit, and why it is so necessary,” Sinclair said. “A key element of the act, the ‘Noah Clause,’ authorizes the federal cabinet to extend legal protections to additional captive, non-domesticated species through regulation.”
Goodall encourages supporters of the Jane Goodall Act to send a letter to members of Parliament and the Senate.
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