The ongoing case of Lucy the elephant is perhaps one of the most well-known animal advocacy campaigns in Canada. Confined at the Edmonton Valley Zoo for over 30 years, Lucy’s story is a tragic case of neglect and abuse, as the normally far-ranging and very social elephant continues to be kept alone, in an inappropriate climate, in quarters that amount to no more than 1/4 acre. As a result of her confinement, Lucy has suffered depression and numerous health problems.
Zoocheck has been one of the organizations that has taken up Lucy’s cause, and is still pushing hard to get Lucy out of the Edmonton Valley Zoo and to a sanctuary in the US where she can stretch her legs, browse on good food, and be around others of her own kind. Tune in to hear about the past, present, and future of the Lucy case, and to find out how you can help.
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From Marthe Kiley-Worthington
I think this is a good case to look at the pros and cons of the move of these INDIVIDUAL elephants to the PAWS so called sanctuary. Things are never so simple when it comes to animal welfare I am afraid.
1) For example it turns out that the PAWS sanctuary has TB and the elephants there have it. Now is it going to benefit the elephants to be moved to such a place and contract TB? You could argue that all else is so much better that it would be best for them, but you can equally argue that by putting them in that sort of danger as an aging group they are less likely to adapt and more at risk, this is NOT then the best for them individually..
2) Apart from the health aspects what about their cognitive/mental health? It is not at all evident that these animals who have spend the whole of their lives after capture or where ever they came from, in this city environment where, provided the zoo is making a concerned effort to ensure that their cognitive, emotional, physical and social needs are being met ( and this is quite possible to do with informed modern zoos) and it is their individual needs that must be assessed which are superimposed on the species needs. IF this is the case, then they individually are better off where they are ( just like those who have lived in the city all their lives find that moving to the country where they do not having all the facilities and usual services is not good for them, particularly when they are old). very difficult,
It may be that these elephants have formed particularly strong emotional bonds with their keepers, with their neighbours in the zoo, etc etc and a loss of these is far more important to them individually than having other elephant company, which in fact they often find very hard to adapt to ( so do other mammals who have been transported into such situations where the wellwishers have thought they were doing a good thing… I have been called to situations where a city living horse has been placed in a field with a group, and spent 2 weeks facing into the corner, terrified of moving and even eating.. he ate no grass).
It can indeed be argued of course that living out and about and particularly being able to perform all the behaviours in their species repertoire is important for the species, and when young at least such facilities should be provided to allow the individual to have a life of quality, but those who have already had other experiences and other emotions probably ( consciousness or not!) it is not so clear that they you are improving the quality of their lives by transporting them to this sort of a place.
All of this confusion comes from a lack of understanding by the majority of the population that lifetime experiences are crucial for the individuals quality of life… ie learning and the development of their individual mental attributes and type of individual intelligence if you like which is superimposed on those of the species. We recognize this for humans, but completely ignore it for other mammals, and this is silly and not rational. It can cause much more suffering for the individuals even though the well wishes have moved heaven and earth to change the environment!
I do not know the ins and outs of this situation, but the fulfillment of not of all their needs in the present zoo environment can be measured ( we can measure handling and emotional interaction with others, we can asses distress, and we can finally come to an informed decision on wheather that individual should be moved… all this needs to be assessed at the PAWS sactuary too, it is not at all evident that all will be well there until it has been properly assessed!
So I am seriously worried about these elephants when they are moved, and I seriouslfy wonder if anyone will monitor their behaviour , their emotionality and possible distress ( and someone who is NOT employed by the sactuary!) . it is certainly possible to assess it all ( see my books, even though we can make some mistakes we are likely to get a better picture than the well wishers who have not even begun to do this as far as I can see).
I thought you might just like to know how someone who has spent their life professionally trying to unravel the important aspect of animal welfare , rather than activists or well wishers, would look at this and assess it In this case it is crucuial if it is really required to ensure a better life for the individuals ( which I am afraid is NOT usually the case with animal welfare organisations) to look at the INDIVIDUALS needs, .rather than only looking at species overall needs… individual needs are superimposed on species need and vary greatly. Also, the aged individual is far less likely to be able to adapt to new conditions when aged.