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Edmonton zoo says 47-year-old Asian elephant Lucy is too sick to be moved

The Edmonton Valley Zoo has released medical information that indicates an elephant named Lucy cannot be moved, despite demands from animal rights groups for years that she be transferred to a sanctuary.

The zoo said it has been working closely with the animal advocacy group Free the Wild since October 2022.

"While the majority of visiting experts agreed with previous expert assessments that she is not fit to travel, they were not unanimous," the zoo said in a news release Tuesday.

"After reviewing the reports in extensive detail, both the zoo and Free the Wild agree that Lucy is not fit to travel."

The 47−year−old Asian elephant is to remain at the zoo, where she has been living for more than 45 years.

<who>Photo Credit: Canadian Press

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals turned to the legal system in Canada to move Lucy to a sanctuary in the United States. In 2012, PETA took the case to the Supreme Court, where the application was dismissed.

Gary Dewar, the zoo’s director, said international experts identified "some important insights that have already resulted in improvements to Lucy’s health and well−being."

A blood gas analysis on Lucy showed she has severe hypoxemia and hypercapnia, which means she has low oxygen and high carbon dioxide 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," the zoo said.

The root cause of the condition remains undiagnosed, the zoo added.

Experts also discovered that Lucy has a uterine tumour that is common in female elephants that have never given birth, the zoo said. It is being treated with a vaccine that the visiting veterinarians recommended.

Several recommendations from the four veterinary and husbandry experts who examined Lucy have been implemented, including changes to the diet of the overweight elephant.

“We’re pleased to say that changes to Lucy’s diet in the four months since the assessment took place have resulted in a 326−kilogram weight loss,” the zoo said.

Free the Wild called the commitment from the Edmonton zoo’s staff extraordinary.

"It’s definitely a very good baseline from which any zoo should look (to care for) their animals," a spokesperson with the organization said in Tuesday’s news release.

Lucy came to the zoo as an orphan in 1977. Over the years, the zoo modified its care plan to meet her changing needs.

The zoo said she started gradually retiring from public activities in 2020 and that it will consider changes to her routines, housing and enrichments as she ages.

PETA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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