Written by Michelle Kretzer
Update: When the plan to hire a Russian cargo jet to
take the Toronto Zoo's three elephants to a Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary
didn't work out, the Royal Canadian Air Force stepped up. Now, as soon as
Defence Minister Peter Mackay gives the thumbs-up, Toka, Thika, and Iringa will
be flying high courtesy of a C-17 transport aircraft and a military endeavour
dubbed "Operation Dumbo Drop."
The following was originally published on November 29, 2012:
It could be only a matter of days until the Toronto Zoo's three captive elephants, Toka, Thika, and Iringa, let the frozen Canadian ground fade into the distance as they set off for their new home: the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in sunny California. After a long campaign by Zoocheck Canada, PETA members, and the compassionate members of the Toronto City Council, the trio will trade their zoo enclosure for acres of varied natural terrain, lakes to bathe in, heated barns, and even therapeutic whirlpool baths. Although the elephants' tale has a storybook ending, their journey to freedom certainly wasn't without conflict.
jmbone | cc by 2.0
The Long Road Home
When the Toronto Zoo, under pressure from Bob Barker, Zoocheck Canada, and PETA, initially agreed to release its captive elephants, it was determined to simply ship them to another decrepit zoo. But the Toronto City Council sided with animal advocates and voted for the gentle giants to be retired to PAWS instead.
Then it seemed as though one of the elephants' foot ailments might make the 40-hour drive too dangerous. So animal advocate extraordinaire Bob Barker stepped up and provided the trio with their own "Elephant Force One" of sorts, a private plane that will quickly whisk them to their new home. The Toronto Zoo then raised concerns about the potential for tuberculosis at PAWS, but an independent infectious-disease report determined that the facility was safe. Once again, the Toronto City Council voted, and once again, it resoundingly insisted that the elephants be sent to PAWS immediately.
A Tale of Two Cities
The Toronto City Council also said in its final motion on Toka, Thika, and Iringa that it feels that Edmonton, Alberta's, Valley Zoo should allow the zoo's lonely elephant, Lucy, to retire to PAWS as well. Because elephants are ill-equipped to tolerate frigid weather, Lucy is forced to spend the winter months confined to a small barn. Our lawsuit to free Lucy did not succeed despite the wonderful comments of one judge who felt Lucy should be free but who could not persuade the other judges on the panel. Lucy hasn't had the company of any other elephant in four long years. But Zoocheck Canada and PETA are determined to win her freedom, and Bob Barker is advocating for her with all his might.
What You Can Do
Please join us in asking Edmonton officials to give Lucy the peaceful retirement that she so deserves.
Written by PETA
Represented by renowned attorney Clayton Ruby, PETA, Zoocheck Canada, and Tove
Reece, president of the Edmonton-based Voice for Animals Humane Society, have
asked the Supreme Court of Canada to allow a lawsuit against the city of
Edmonton to force Lucy's transfer.
The following was originally posted September 8, 2011
by an Alberta Court of Appeal judge's lengthy dissenting opinion in favor of hearing
our lawsuit regarding what we believe are abusive and illegal living conditions
for Lucy, the lone elephant at
Edmonton Valley Zoo, PETA and Zoocheck Canada will ask the Supreme Court of
Canada to hear her case.
her opinion, which took up more than three-fourths of the entire ruling, Chief
Justice Catherine Fraser wrote that PETA and Zoocheck Canada have shown "a
prima facie case of the City's unlawful conduct vis-à-vis Lucy."
has been in solitary confinement for more than three years and, not
surprisingly, is showing signs of "zoochosis," including pacing and
that indicate severe psychological distress. She also suffers from arthritis,
obesity, chronic foot ailments, and upper respiratory problems—all of which are
aggravated by Edmonton's frigid climate and the fact that Lucy, who is native
to Asia's tropical jungles, must spend most of the year confined to a barn. Recent zoo records indicate that Lucy is more
obese than ever, despite supposedly getting more exercise during the
to the zoo's claims, elephant experts consulted by PETA and Zoocheck Canada who
have seen Lucy and her medical records say that there is no reason to believe
that she cannot be moved safely to a sanctuary in a more temperate climate.
Indeed, they say that her health will continue to decline if she is not moved.
help by sending a polite e-mail to the Edmonton City Council
asking members to free Lucy before she has to face yet another winter confined
to a dark, depressing barn.
Written by Alisa Mullins
There's no justice for Lucy—yet. Despite what PETA and Zoocheck Canada described to an appellate court as blatant violations of Alberta's Animal Protection Act by the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the court today refused to give Lucy her day in court. But in a groundbreaking dissenting opinion that takes up 45 pages of the 56-page ruling, Chief Justice Catherine Fraser found that PETA and Zoocheck showed "a prima facie case of the City's unlawful conduct vis-à-vis Lucy," and they deserve their day in court.
Lucy has lived for years in what Chief Justice Fraser calls "solitary isolation" at the zoo. She is suffering from severe psychological distress as well as upper-respiratory problems, arthritis, obesity, and chronic foot ailments.
Undeterred by today's decision, PETA and Zoocheck will continue to fight for Lucy and are weighing all of our options in light of today's ruling. You can help by sending a polite e-mail to Edmonton City Council asking them to free Lucy before Canada's long winter sets in, during which time she will be relegated to a cramped, dismal barn.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
Today, PETA and Zoocheck Canada are officially initiating a lawsuit against the city of Edmonton, Alberta, over the cruel and apparently unlawful conditions under which Lucy, a solitary elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, is forced to live.
Lucy's health issues—which include upper respiratory problems, arthritis, obesity, and chronic foot ailments—are the result of the substandard conditions at Edmonton Valley Zoo and are further aggravated by the region's frigid climate, which is inappropriate for an Asian elephant. Lucy has also been alone for the past two years, spends most of her time in a small barn, and exhibits behavior that indicates severe psychological distress. Even Dr. James Oosterhuis, the Valley Zoo's own consultant, acknowledged that the zoo's indoor facilities fail to meet the industry's minimum standards.
Consultations with experts prove that Lucy's life is at risk in Edmonton. Dr. William Keith Lindsay—a Canadian ecologist who has been actively involved in research on the ecology of elephants with the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya since 1977—is one of several experts who confirm that Lucy's living conditions are unacceptable. Dr. Lindsay states, "It is abundantly clear that Lucy would benefit greatly from the company of other elephants." Elephants live in close-knit families, and the females spend their entire lives in herds that include all their female relatives. The solitary life that Lucy lives prevents her from taking part in any of the social behaviors that are necessary for maintaining an elephant's health.
Dr. Joyce Poole, an elephant biologist and ethologist who has spent more than 30 years studying elephant social behavior and communication states, "Lucy has spent much of her life standing on concrete in a small barn and doing very little of what an elephant needs [to] do to maintain good physical health and mental well being. The consequence is that she is a young elephant in an old body. This causes her real privation and suffering."
We won't rest until we see Lucy moved to a sanctuary. As we take the city to court, we urge you to take action to help Lucy find the freedom she deserves and to share this information with everyone you know. Keep checking back here for more updates.
Written by Logan Scherer
PETA and ZooCheck have been campaigning to convince officials at the Edmonton Zoo, deemed Canada's worst zoo for elephants by African elephant biologist Winnie Kiiru, to release its sole pachyderm prisoner, Lucy, to a sanctuary. We've reasoned with zoo officials. We've enlisted support from experts and celebrities. And we've called on caring supporters to write letters pushing for Lucy's retirement.
Unfortunately, it took proposed litigation against the city of Edmonton for zoo officials to make a pathetic attempt to improve Lucy's sad state and announce their "plan" to improve her life by putting her on a diet, giving her some sand to stand on—and possibly providing her with a treadmill.* We responded to this craziness with a full-page ad, which ran yesterday in the Edmonton Journal.
The zoo's policy of locking Lucy inside during the long, bitterly cold winters means that Lucy spends most of her time in a small barn. When she is allowed outside, she's primarily restricted to an enclosure that is less than an acre in size. It's no surprise that Lucy exhibits signs of mental distress, and her medical records reveal that she has been suffering from arthritis as well as chronic foot and respiratory problems.
It's time that Edmonton Zoo officials made the decent decision to help Lucy by retiring her to a sanctuary where she can enjoy warmer temperatures, acres of space to roam, and the company of other elephants. Please help by sending your polite comments to Edmonton's mayor and city councilmembers.
Stay tuned for updates.
Written by Karin Bennett
*I think if Edmonton zoo officials were serious about enriching Lucy's life and improving her health, they'd sign her up for some Jazzercize classes. I'm obviously joking, but building a jumbo-sized treadmill for the overweight elephant is just as ludicrous. (Am I right—or am I right?)
What has actor, singer, and author William Shatner (Canada's triple threat) been up to since nabbing the Emmy for Boston Legal?
The "Priceline Negotiator" recently made a plea for the release of the Edmonton 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 … she's old, feeble, and many of us know how that feels."
He joins pachyderm protectors around the world in rallying for Lucy's release.
Two years ago, elephant expert Winnie Kiiru named the Edmonton Zoo the worst zoo in Canada for elephants and called for the closure of the exhibit. Edmonton's frigid winter weather and the zoo's policy of locking Lucy in the barn when the zoo is closed mean that she spends the majority of her time indoors. The short amount of time that Lucy is allowed outdoors is spent in a barren, dusty enclosure. Being forced to endure the cold and the forced immobility is fueling her arthritis and causing chronic foot and respiratory problems.
Please add your pleas to Mr. Shatner's by writing to Mayor Mandel. Urge him to release Lucy to a sanctuary that can offer her hundreds of acres of diverse terrain, ponds for bathing, a more suitable climate, and the company of other elephants.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.