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update - The Free Lucy Campaign
(May 10 2010)



Zoocheck Canada


(May 4, 2010) The City of Edmonton, represented by lawyer Stephen Phipps, argued in court that the lawsuit initiated by Zoocheck Canada and PETA on behalf of Lucy the elephant should be struck down. Claiming the groups have no authority to launch the lawsuit, Phipps also argued that the suit was an abuse of process because other avenues for dealing with the Lucy situation are available.

Clayton Ruby, attorney for Zoocheck and PETA, argued that Phipps was wrong and that the City of Edmonton must act to bring itself into compliance with provincial laws regarding wild animals in captivity. He said it was noteworthy that the judge indicated there was nothing stopping the Edmonton Humane Society and the Province of Alberta from taking action if laws are being broken while the court proceedings progress.

The judge reserved his decision, which is expected in a few weeks time.


CLICK HERE to read Originating Notice Requesting Declaratory Relief and Expert Affidavits

(February 1, 2010) Today on behalf of PETA and Zoocheck, respected attorney Clayton Ruby will initiate legal action against the city of Edmonton over the conditions under which ailing elephant Lucy is forced to live at Edmonton's Valley Zoo—conditions that the groups say are cruel and unlawful. In a letter sent to Mayor Stephen Mandel in October, PETA and Zoocheck warned that legal action would be taken against the city in an effort to seek enforcement of Alberta's Animal Protection Act if Lucy's distress was not relieved. Ruby, along with representatives of PETA and Zoocheck, will discuss the case at a news conference on Monday after the application for declaratory judgment is filed in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench

CLICK HERE to read Originating Notice Requesting Declaratory Relief and Expert Affidavits


(December 7, 2009) It has now been more than two years since Samantha, the female African elephant who lived with Lucy at the Valley Zoo, was shipped to the North Carolina Zoo. Samantha enjoys far more space than she ever had in Edmonton, natural grass covered ground, long sightlines and the company of other elephants, while Lucy remains in social isolation in a small, barren exhibit in Edmonton. To view short video clips of Samantha taken in September 2009, click on the YouTube links below.

VIDEO 1    2    3    4    5


(November 16, 2009) The Valley Zoo has been modifying their management of Lucy and recently publicized a new treatment plan for her respiratory condition and obesity. They continue to claim that Lucy cannot be moved and that doing so would pose a threat to her life, although no substantive evidence has been produced supporting their claim.

Zoocheck and PETA have asked the City of Edmonton to provide the documents and materials that support their claim that Lucy can't be moved, including details of all medical examinations of Lucy, all medical records relied upon and generated during the course of their consultant's review, a copy of the DVD of the endoscope examination and correspondence between their consultant and the zoo or city.

Zoocheck and PETA are seeking all of the information relied upon by the zoo and the city, so it can be reviewed by independent veterinary experts. If outside experts agreed with the zoo's claim that Lucy was too sick to be moved, the contemplated litigation would be abandoned.

Click here to read the letter to the City of Edmonton


(October 20, 2009) The ongoing battle to give Lucy the elephant the protections she deserves — and that PETA and Zoocheck believe she is entitled to under the law — just heated up. That's because PETA and Zoocheck Canada have retained nationally renowned civil- and animal-rights attorney Clayton Ruby to opine on the legal obligation of the City of Edmonton to relieve Lucy's suffering — and if necessary, to take legal action against the city in an effort to apply Alberta's Animal Protection Act (APA) and force the Edmonton Valley Zoo to better care for Lucy. More...


(September 18, 2009) At an Edmonton media conference on Thursday September 17th, television icon Bob Barker, world renowned elephant biologist Dr. Joyce Poole, PAWS Sanctuary co-founder Ed Stewart, exotic animal veterinarian Dan Famini and Zoocheck campaigns director Julie Woodyer presented the case for moving Lucy the elephant from her inadequate Valley Zoo environment to more elephant-friendly accommodation elsewhere.

Dr. Poole, who has studied elephants in the wild for approximately 30 years, discussed the innate social nature of all female elephants and the rich lives they lead with their families in the wild, as well as how a female elephant kept alone will suffer. Sanctuary operator Ed Stewart, who has been involved in numerous elephant transfers, presented reliable information about the realities of moving elephants from one location to another, while veterinarian Dan Famini spoke about the risk of keeping Lucy at the Valley Zoo considering the fact that she already has numerous conditions that have led to the deaths of elephants in other facilities.

The media conference was widely covered and generated more than 150 news articles across the country.

After the media conference, a meeting was held at the zoo between Mr. Barker, Ed Stewart, Dan Famini and Dr. Joyce Poole, and zoo representatives Dean Treichel, veterinarian Milton Ness, city staff Denise Prefontaine and Linda Cochrane and three City of Edmonton councilors. The zoo reiterated their previous arguments that Lucy is happy and healthy, but at the same time too sick to be moved. They argued that Lucy's keepers are her family, that she is quite content and that there would be no further veterinary examinations of Lucy because of the stress it causes her. After the meeting, zoo and city representatives referred to Mr. Barker and his colleagues as poorly informed.

The zoo and city representative were intransigent. Even when Dr. Poole (a scientific giant in the field of elephant biology and behaviour) tried to correct the misrepresentations and falsehoods about elephants they presented, they rebuffed her. After the meeting, Dr. Poole commented about how little the zoo and city staff actually knew about elephants.

The meeting went pretty much as we expected, said Julie Woodyer. The zoo continues to flog their absurd argument that Lucy is bonded to her keepers and that that is somehow preferable to a real elephant family, as well as pushing their "phantom" respiratory condition as a reason for her not being moved. It's unfortunate the attending council members didn't take advantage of having someone like Joyce Poole at the meeting to ask her questions.

That same day, famed Canadian lawyer Clayton Ruby announced that he is looking at filing a lawsuit against the city.


(September 15, 2009) On Monday September 14th, the Valley Zoo and the City of Edmonton held a media conference to publicize the results of an examination by veterinarian James Oosterhuis. After his examination, which was conducted the previous week, Oosterhuis said in a letter, "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."

According to City of Edmonton Community Services Director Linda Cochrane, "Given this third party examination of Lucy and the stark recommendations that have resulted the City of Edmonton and the Valley Zoo reconfirm that we will not consider moving Lucy to an American elephant sanctuary, or, in fact, anywhere else."

Cochrane's characterization of Oosterhuis as an impartial third party lacks credibility as Oosterhuis had reportedly already been consulted by the Valley Zoo and was also consulted in the past.

Oosterhuis's comments and his recommendation that Lucy remain at the Valley Zoo were not unexpected by elephant advocates. Since the late 1980s Oosterhuis has defended a number questionable captive elephant situations.

Oosterhuis first came to the attention of elephant advocates back in 1988, when, as a San Diego Wild Animal Park veterinarian, he was questioned at a public hearing looking into the training of Dunda, an elephant who was tied down and struck on the head with ax handles for two days. He said “In my view it is an appropriate and non-harmful place in which to administer required discipline.”

Several years ago, he determined that elephants owned by the US-based Hawthorn Corp., a business that supplies elephants to circuses, were well enough to work, even though two had tuberculosis and died a short while later.

More recently Oosterhuis was the sole dissentor out of a group of eleven experts who were asked to provide an opinion as to whether the Alaska Zoo's Maggie the elephant should be moved from her bland, inadequate zoo accommodation to a California sanctuary. Oosterhuis suggested that, with a few modifications, Maggie could be fine at the Alaska Zoo. Luckily for Maggie, the rest of the group said she should be moved and she now enjoys a spacious natural paddock in the company of other elephants in the California sunshine.

It's very clear that the Valley Zoo media conference was an attempted pre-emptive media strike in advance of the Edmonton visit of celebrity Bob Barker and world renowned elephant expert Joyce Poole. The release of the Oosterhuis commentary, the zoo's continued refusal to allow other experts to examine Lucy and their ongoing refutation of established scientific fact shows that the Valley Zoo has no interest in what's best for Lucy.


(September 8, 2009) Emmy award winning actor, singer, and author William Shatner recently made a plea for the release of the Edmonton Valley Zoo's lonely, ailing elephant, Lucy.

In a letter to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Mr. Shatner wrote, "I humbly ask you to allow Lucy to retire to better circumstances than at the Edmonton Zoo..."

Shatner joins pachyderm protectors, including other actors, authors and some of the world's leading elephant experts in rallying for Lucy's release.


(July 29, 2009) One of world’s leading elephant experts, Dr. Joyce Poole, is urging the City of Edmonton to relocate Lucy, the Valley Zoo’s lone Asian elephant, to a warmer climate to live with other elephants as soon as possible.

According to Dr. Poole, “It is my considered opinion that the Edmonton Valley Zoo must, with all urgency, allow Lucy to live out the remainder of her life in a warmer climate in a setting where she is free to roam outdoors and to interact with members of her own species. Only in this situation does Lucy have the chance to make a recovery. After 32 years of captive misery, Lucy deserves to be given what is in her best interests. I urge the Edmonton Valley Zoo to put her needs first, and send Lucy to California, to PAWS, where she has been offered such a home.”

A giant in the world of field biology and elephant conservation, Dr. Poole’s decades long study of elephants is comparable only to the study of chimpanzees by Dr. Jane Goodall. Her more than 30 years of researching elephant social behaviour and communication, have resulted in the discovery of musth in male African elephants, the description of the contextual use of elephant vocalizations, including those below the level of human hearing, and the discovery of vocal imitation.

Dr. Poole received her Ph.D. in elephant behavior from Cambridge University and is the co-founder of Elephant Voices, a research and conservation based organization aimed at promoting scientifically sound and ethical management and care of elephants.

Dr. Poole joins other leading elephant experts, such as Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, from around the world in her assertion that socializing with other elephants is critical to each female elephant’s welfare and that by keeping Lucy in isolation from her own species she is suffering from deprivation and other negative emotional states.

To view Dr. Poole's letter, click here.


On June 30th, Edmonton-based veterinarian/zoologist Debi Zimmermann released her report entitled One Veterinarian's Search for Truth in the "Lucy the Elephant" Debate. The report, which examines information about Lucy's numerous health issues and reviews current knowledge and trends in elephant husbandry and care, is a valuable addition to the ongoing dialogue about Lucy. To view the report, click here.


In response to the considerable numbers of requests from children wanting more information on Lucy's situation, Zoocheck launched the Kids Save Lucy website on June 2nd. The site has received national media coverage and should prove to be a useful tool in the ongoing struggle to convince the Edmonton Valley Zoo to send Lucy to a sanctuary. The response to the site has been overwhelmingly positive

That same week, Zoocheck director Rob Laidlaw was in Edmonton speaking to school groups across the city.

The week also saw a June 4th article entitled Valley Zoo in dire need of a renaissance by Edmonton Journal columnist Todd Babiak and on June 5th an editorial entitled Add Valley Zoo to city rethinking.


On May 21st, 36 prominent Canadian authors, including Barbara Gowdy, Elizabeth Abbott, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, forwarded a letter to the City of Edmonton Mayor and Members of Council asking them to intervene on behalf of Lucy the elephant by facilitating an independent expert assessment of Lucy’s health and her transfer to more suitable accommodation elsewhere.

Representing fiction, non-fiction, popular, academic, adult and children’s book genres, the authors hope their letter will help facilitate Lucy’s transfer to a better home.


In 2006, on Zoocheck Canada's behalf, Kenyan elephant biologist Winnie Kiiru conducted an inspection of all elephant facilities in Canadian zoos. While Ms. Kiiru reported that all of the elephants she observed were living in conditions that failed to satisfy a full range of their biological and behavioural needs, she identified Lucy and Samantha at the Edmonton Valley Zoo as being in the most problematic situation. Her conclusion was based on the fact that Edmonton’s climate is unsuitable for elephants, their social environment was entirely inappropriate, there was insufficient space for the elephants to express natural movements and behaviours and their physical state appeared poor.

Upon receiving Ms. Kiiru’s completed report, Zoocheck initiated a campaign, in association with Edmonton’s Voice for Animals, aimed at bringing the plight of Lucy and Samantha to public attention and to convince the zoo to transfer both elephants to an elephant sanctuary in the United States.

During this campaign, medical records were obtained from the zoo through the Freedom of Information process. Lucy, the female Asian elephant captured in Sri Lanka in 1975 and probably born that same year, was found to be suffering from chronic arthritis and foot problems (a leading cause of death in zoo elephants). Zoocheck’s observations also revealed that she was lethargic and exhibiting pronounced stereotypic behaviours, such as swaying and rocking, typically a sign of frustration, boredom and stress.

Samantha, the zoo’s female African elephant who was wild caught in Zimbabwe had an estimated birth year of 1988. She also exhibits stereotypic behaviours and in 2006 had the end of her trunk ripped off when she got it caught in an enclosure gate latch.

After reviewing the 2005-2006 Environment Canada climate records for Edmonton, we estimated that Lucy and Samantha were locked indoors more than 75% of the time. This estimate is based on the zoo’s own policy of only allowing the elephants outdoors when the temperature rises above 10 degrees C and the fact that the elephants are kept indoors during non-visitor hours.

As the campaign moved forward, Lucy and Samantha’s story increasingly generated both public and media interest. A letter writing campaign to the City of Edmonton council was initiated and, to date, hundreds of people have contacted Council urging them to move the two elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and to permanently end the keeping of elephants at the Valley Zoo. Since the zoo is municipally owned and operated, Council has the ability to determine the future of the elephants.

In April 2007, Zoocheck and Voice for Animals conducted a two day behavioural study of Lucy and Samantha. Using a behavioural checklist, the study found both elephants spent the vast majority of their time standing. Lucy remained relatively inactive and stationary, except for a one period in which zoo staff walked her through the zoo grounds.

During the observation period Samantha made many attempts to socialize with Lucy to no avail. It is likely they are not effectively communicating with each other because they are different species of elephants.

Representatives of Zoocheck and Voice for Animals met with a number of City of Edmonton councilors, as well as other residents of Edmonton, to discuss concerns about Lucy and Samantha. Those talks are ongoing.

In the spring of 2007, the Valley Zoo announced that they will be sending Samantha to the North Carolina Zoo on a breeding loan. She may be away for 5 years or more. Samantha left the zoo by truck on Tuesday September 25th.

According to the Valley Zoo, Lucy is fine where she is. This is contrary to national and international zoo association recommendations which state that elephants should never be kept alone. The zoo claims that it would be dangerous to move Lucy and that she receives the social stimulation she requires from her keepers. However, the zoo doesn’t acknowledge that her physical and social environment is extremely poor and that Lucy’s chronic health problems are a result of her living conditions. If she stays where she is, in all likelihood Lucy will not survive over the long term.

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