Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) launched a formal investigation into Edmonton Valley Zoo over poor conditions after a complaint was filed by animal rights group Animal Justice. The zoo has received many complaints in the past over the treatment of elephant Lucy.
The zoo in Alberta in Canada, publicly admitted to problematic and potentially illegal conditions in its budget report to Edmonton’s city council, Animal Justice said in a statement on Thursday.
The report stated that the zoo was not in compliance with CAZA standards and was also in breach of Alberta’s provincial zoo standards.
Animal Justice’s complaint highlighted the zoo’s request for almost $11 million from the City of Edmonton to deal with serious animal welfare and public safety problems, including concerns over the well-being of Lucy, an elephant kept alone at the zoo.
Lucy, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, was born in Sri Lanka in 1975 and captured at the age of two. She has been at the zoo for the last 34 years.
For 18 years, Lucy had the company of the African elephant Samantha. But in 2007, Samantha was transported to the North Carolina Zoo for breeding and never returned. Since then, Lucy has been alone.
Lucy has developed many illnesses over the years, but the zoo refuses to place her in a better-suited home with other elephants. The zoo recently told local media that they’re preparing for her eventual death.
She has many health problems, like breathing through her mouth because of a blockage in her trunk, which is uncommon for elephants.
The problems at the zoo include poor air quality in Lucy’s enclosure, an inadequate barn for zebras, a camel enclosure not built for camels, birds of prey kept cages too small to allow them to fly, and takins living in inadequate enclosures. There are also ongoing leaks in the seal pool basins, putting animals, staff and the public at risk.
CAZA’s investigation follows years of efforts by local Edmonton animal advocates and protection groups, such as Zoocheck, to help Lucy and improve conditions at the zoo. Despite these efforts, including high-profile lawsuits, the problems persist.
Animal Justice said that it is concerning that CAZA did not launch an investigation earlier, especially considering previous discussions of the zoo’s animal welfare concerns at Edmonton City Council and media coverage.
The zoo’s re-accreditation in October 2022 raised further questions for Animal Justice considering its poor animal welfare and safety standards were already known.