Last week we received a much-publicized letter from William Shatner asking the city to move Lucy, the Asian elephant at the Valley Zoo, to a sanctuary. His letter added to a sustained campaign, headlined by the estimable Bob Barker, to get Lucy moved out of Edmonton. We’ve also received hundreds of emails from around the world. The arguments boil down to that it’s cold here and that she is alone.
Later this week Mr. Barker will visit Edmonton to see Lucy and meet with zoo officials. He’s asked to address city council but we are not Lucy’s stewards, the zoo is; and this issue is a veterinary one, not a political one.
The real question is what is best in terms of Lucy’s wellbeing under the circumstances.
There’s no arguing that it’s cold, but it’s debatable whether the cold amounts to an inhumane condition for Lucy. She has endured more Edmonton winters than me, though.
As for the question of her solitude, nobody would argue that this it’s ideal. The issue, according to her caregivers and independent experts, is that due to a persistent respiratory condition it would not be safe to move Lucy. The stress of transportation, we are told, could be very dangerous to her. Bringing in a companion elephant, which hasn’t been ruled out, would also be stressful according to zoo staff.
Yesterday the City released the preliminary findings from Dr. James Oosterhuis, an expert in elephant health from San Diego. An excerpt from his full letter is unequivocal:
“Her (Lucy’s) current respiratory problems preclude any thought of moving her and in fact it would (be) life threatening for her to be placed under that kind of stress. It is my opinion that it would be unethical for any veterinarian to recommend moving her and in fact would be malpractice to sign a health certificate for her at this time.”
Councillors are receiving all of this information and my read of it is that Lucy’s caregivers continue to work with her best interests at heart – and her best interests are served by the status quo until her respiratory condition improves.