EDMONTON — TV personality Bob Barker wants Lucy the elephant to pack her trunk and quit chilly Edmonton for sunny California.
The retired game show host visited Edmonton on Thursday to continue his campaign to have the city’s Valley Zoo send the aging and ailing Asian elephant to a sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif.
Mr. Barker said that while he’s delighted the zoo doesn’t plan to bring in any more elephants once Lucy dies, he doesn’t accept the facility’s claim that she’s better off where she is.
“We want them to talk to people . . . and come to terms with the fact that Lucy is not going to get better at the zoo,” he said.
The zoo has said Lucy is too sick to make the move.
Mr. Barker, visiting Edmonton along with several animal rights organizations, has been lobbying the city since last winter to ship Lucy to a sanctuary run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society.
There, she would live in a 12-hectare enclosure with four other female Asian elephants.
Mr. Barker, the former host of TV’s The Price is Right, was invited by the city to meet with Lucy and her veterinarian and other zoo staff.
Lucy’s breathing problems make it too dangerous to move her from the zoo, officials said this week.
Although a malformed 2.6-kilogram molar thought to be making it hard for her to breathe through her trunk fell out Aug. 28, a checkup last week by an international elephant expert showed her nasal passages are still severely constricted, zoo veterinarian Dr. Milton Ness said.
The examination by Dr. James Oosterhuis, principal veterinarian at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in California, included looking up her trunk with a three-metre fibre-optic endoscope while she was under sedation.
Mr. Ness said the latest information shows the stress of such a trip would make it so hard for her to get enough oxygen that it might kill her.
“To move her at the [limit] of her respiratory capacity, her ability to breathe . . . is tantamount to signing a certificate of her death.”
Edmonton’s community services general manager, Linda Cochrane, said the elephant’s well-being is her main concern.
“Let me be perfectly clear. Lucy will not be moved from the Valley Zoo. It’s time to end the debate and get on with the business of letting the trained staff go on with the task of caring for the animals,” she said.
“The city has the utmost confidence in this team of caregivers.”
At the Edmonton news conference, Barker was joined by elephant behaviour expert Dr. Joyce Poole, Ed Stewart, PAWS co-founder, and elephant veterinarian Dr. Dan Famini.
Mr. Barker and his entourage were to meet Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo Thursday afternoon.