Wild Times Archive

Lucy’s 2021 Health Assessment

Over the past 44 years, the care team at the Edmonton Valley Zoo have worked tirelessly to give Lucy the elephant the best care she deserves. 

Earlier this fall, the zoo arranged for assessments from qualified, independent elephant experts. Independent elephant assessments are required yearly by Canada’s Associated Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), the zoo’s accrediting body, as has been our standard practice for the past several years. Edmonton Valley Zoo management reached out to several internationally renowned elephant experts for the 2021 assessment, including some who were recommended by various organizations and/or who had never assessed Lucy before. 

The 2021 comprehensive assessments were completed by:

  • Dr. James Oosterhuis, who is considered one of the world’s leading veterinarians specializing in elephant health. He has been involved in moving more than 50 elephants in his career. He has been assessing Lucy’s health since 2002, before she exhibited signs of a respiratory condition, so is best positioned to observe any changes in her condition.
  • Charles Gray, who is the Superintendent of Elephants at African Lion Safari in Ontario and has worked hands-on with elephants for 40 years. He is a founding board member of the Elephant Managers Association and is a founding and current board member of the International Elephant Foundation. He was called upon to assess Lucy, her care program, and her facilities as an elephant management expert.

Unfortunately, many of the candidates who were contacted were unable to assist this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated public health measures, and/or constraints in their own schedules. Some of them have confirmed their interest in assessing Lucy when schedules permit.

The findings from this fall’s assessments confirm that her respiratory impairment continues to be a concern as she struggles to breathe every day. We have been told by several experts over the past few years that her condition will not improve. All independent veterinarians who have examined her in the past have strongly recommended against moving her to another facility. 

Lucy has no immediate life-threatening concerns and her health issues, while serious, are being managed well at the zoo where she is calm and comfortable. The experts we have consulted have said It is unlikely that another facility would be able to replicate the customized attention she currently receives.

Lucy is a bright and curious elephant. Every external veterinarian report over the past 10 years says she does not exhibit any abnormal behaviours or signs of stress. All of our independent experts have noted she is well adjusted and content, and they have complimented the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s enrichment and elephant management programs.

We will continue to adapt strategies for her care based on the intimate knowledge zoo staff has of her condition, her age, scientific knowledge, and independent expert advice. We are evolving our management program using international best practice and we will continue Lucy’s gradual retirement from public activities. 

The full veterinarian reports are available online here.

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