A collaborative, independent assessment of Lucy last fall has revealed new medical information about the 47-year-old Asian elephant.
The Edmonton Valley Zoo and animal advocacy organization Free The Wild cooperated on an assessment of Lucy in October 2022. This assessment provided great insights into Lucy’s health and wellness, including medical information previously unknown.
While the majority of visiting experts agreed with previous expert assessments that she is not fit to travel, they did not reach unanimous agreement. After reviewing the reports in extensive detail, both the zoo and Free the Wild agree that Lucy is not fit to travel. She will remain at the Edmonton Valley Zoo where she has been cared for by a team of dedicated animal professionals for more than 45 years.
The assessment was performed by four international elephant veterinary and husbandry experts: Dr. Frank Goeritz, Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt, Dr. Patricia London, and Mr. Ingo Schmidinger.
Among the new medical tests performed last fall was a blood gas analysis test, which showed that after minimal physical activity, Lucy had very severe hypoxemia and hypercapnia – which is low oxygen levels in her blood and in her tissues. Two of the visiting veterinarians confirmed she breathes solely from her mouth, which they say is something they have never seen before.
Lucy’s breathing issue is more serious than the visiting experts anticipated, as quantified by blood gas analysis, and unfortunately the root cause of the condition remains undiagnosed. The experts also discovered a uterine tumour (leiomyoma) which is quite common in elephants who have never given birth. The tumour is large and is being treated with a vaccine which the visiting veterinarians recommended.
Several of their recommendations have been implemented, including changes to Lucy’s diet and medical treatments. Changes to Lucy’s diet in the four months since the assessment took place have resulted in a 326 kilogram weight loss.
Lucy came to the zoo as a two-year-old orphan in 1977. Over the years, the zoo has modified its care plan to meet Lucy’s changing needs. Her gradual retirement from public activities began in 2020, and the zoo will continue to evolve its elephant management program to accommodate Lucy’s needs as she ages. Going forward, the zoo will continue to monitor Lucy’s weight and overall health, as well as look at possible changes to her housing, enrichments, and routines.
An annual, independent assessment is required by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) in order to maintain Lucy in Edmonton as a lone elephant. She has been assessed yearly by outside experts for more than a decade.
The full assessment reports and a statement from Free the Wild can be viewed online at edmonton.ca/lucy.