Jane Goodall reverses stance, says Lucy the elephant should stay in Edmonton

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

Famous animal activist Jane Goodall has changed her mind about moving Lucy the elephant away from the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

After asking an independent third-party veterinarian to thoroughly review the case, Goodall said the “findings were consistent: the risks of moving Lucy outweigh the potential benefits to her.”

“Our founder asked for this review and supports its conclusion that Lucy should not be moved,” the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada said in a statement Thursday.

In December, Goodall urged Edmonton City Council to “free Lucy the lonely elephant” and let her retire “in a more humane setting.” She posted a video message, asking that Lucy be transferred from the Edmonton Valley Zoo to a sanctuary in Tennessee.

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That push to move Lucy to a warmer climate included a request that a third-party vet conduct an assessment of the elephant and provide a recommendation “to ultimately determine whether moving her is in her best interests.”

“The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada has taken that step and has completed a thorough review of the credentials, and experience with elephants, of the team of veterinarians who have provided medical and behavioural assessments of Lucy,” the Feb. 18 statement reads.

“We have concluded that each veterinarian involved in Lucy’s evaluations was well-qualified to provide their opinion, being recognized by international certifying bodies for their specialty. The assessments they provided were thorough and independent.

“Their findings were consistent: the risks of moving Lucy outweigh the potential benefits to her.”

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.

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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.


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