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                                                                    Media Release

Retire Lucy—Jane Goodall’s Plea—Voice for Animals Agree


Sen. Murray Sinclair tables legislation—the Jane Goodall Act—banning captivity of great apes, elephants and other wildlife and calling for Lucy’s retirement.

Edmonton - It comes as great news that Dr. Jane Goodall has lent her considerable influence and highly respected opinion to the pleas asking for Lucy to be moved to sanctuary. The voice of the world-renowned primatologist must surely speak the truth that Edmonton City Council and the Edmonton Valley Zoo has denied for so many years.

Voice for Animals Society (V4A) started advocating for Lucy’s freedom in 2006.

While some animals adapt to captivity better than others—elephants do not and cannot be kept humanely in zoos. We became aware of Lucy’s suffering and her many health problems and decided we had to act.

We approached City Council and the EVZ wanting to open a discussion about Lucy’s future. Our efforts, however, fell on deaf ears despite presenting reports and research from elephant experts and veterinarians. Later, Mr. Bob Barker travelled to Edmonton to plead for Lucy’s freedom, offering to pay all expenses for her move. Once again, the city and EVZ refused to listen.

Subsequently, we launched two court actions in an effort to have Lucy moved to sanctuary. In 2010—in Reece v. City (Edmonton)—we sued the City of Edmonton for leaving Lucy in distress. In a judicial review in 2016 in Zoocheck Canada Inc. v. HMQ, we claimed that the provincial government had renewed the EVZ’s permit despite its failure to comply with Alberta’s Zoo Standards.

Both cases were dismissed in Court of Queen’s Bench and, ultimately, in the Alberta Court of Appeal. However, very strong dissenting opinions were written in both cases.

The dissenting judge in the first case was Chief Justice Catherine Fraser. In her scathing dissent, she wrote:

“Some may consider this appeal and the claims on behalf of Lucy inconsequential, perhaps even frivolous. They would be wrong. Lucy’s case raises serious issues not only about how society treats sentient animals[3] – those capable of feeling pain and thereby suffering at human hands – but also about the right of the people in a democracy to ensure that the government itself is not above the law.”

In the judicial review, the dissenting judge Honourable Mr. Justice O’Ferrall wrote in an insightful dissent:

“A shift in attitude regarding the acceptable treatment of animals has led Alberta to legislate positive duties of care towards animals. However, this protection will remain ineffective so long as citizens are unable to challenge alleged unlawful treatment of animals by government.”

We are hopeful and optimistic that City Council and the EVZ has evolved and that both parties will listen to the learned and wise recommendations from Dr. Jane Goodall and release Lucy from her long years of servitude.

              ** IMPORTANT LUCY UPDATE**

Zoocheck and Voice 4 Animals have been engaged in a campaign, including several legal actions, to have Lucy moved to a more suitable, healthy, environment since 2006. However, for more than 13 years, the Edmonton Valley Zoo engaged in one stall tactic after another claiming they were not opposed to moving her but saying it was not possible because she was too sick to be moved. Throughout those years the zoo refused to allow a truly independent assessment of her health by a qualified team of specialist veterinarians, even when it was offered to them at no cost. The groups repeatedly warned the zoo and Edmonton City Council that stalling would only allow her condition to worsen and some day it would be too late to move Lucy. We fear that day has now come.

We recently obtained copies of Lucy’s medical records from the past year and had them reviewed by a globally respected, independent veterinarian with extensive elephant experience. The records indicate that Lucy’s health has gotten significantly worse and indicates she is likely nearing the end of her sad, lonely life.

The zoo’s medical records for Lucy reveal that she is now, for all intents and purposes, being kept alive on medication the way a palliative care patient is treated. This likely means that it could be too late to move her safely. In the past year, Lucy has been put on a daily dose of opioids to manage her pain caused by foot and joint problems which developed from living in Edmonton’s cold climate on hard substrates for most of her life. She is also now suffering from painful stomach issues which are commonly associated with taking the opiod drugs. However, without the opiods, it is unlikely that Lucy would be able to stand up on her own after she lays down and would die as a result. This means that the zoo is medicating her with a cocktail of drugs to keep her alive.

When Zoocheck and Voice 4 Animals first began advocating for Lucy over a decade ago, the groups warned the city council that the conditions at the zoo had caused her health issues and would only worsen over time, but they ignored the warnings and her health gradually deteriorated.

We are still pursuing the full assessment of Lucy, even if a team of independent experts say it is now to late to safely move her there are other things the zoo may be able to do to improve her life, the least of which would be to come into compliance with the zoo standards they continue to violate. We are truly broken hearted by this news as we know many of you are too. We felt it was unfair to everyone to not share the truth about her severely declining health. Even still, will never give up trying to help her no matter what happens.

We also need to ensure that this never happens again in Canada. Therefore,Zoocheck and Voice 4 Animals intend to move forward with their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada because the decision not to give legal standing to the two animal groups is a very dangerous precedent that may affect animals (and environmental issues) across the country. We hope to have more news by the end of the summer.

Lucy is a solitary elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Since the release of Maggie from the Alaska Zoo to the Performing Animal Welfare Society Wildlife Sanctuary in 2007, Lucy has become the most northerly lone elephant in the world. Edmonton is not suitable to meet the requirements of elephants - Lucy needs to be moved to a sanctuary in a more suitable climate immediately.

Judicial Review Update May 2017:

There is no doubt that the Valley Zoo is in violation of the Alberta Zoo Regulations concerning Lucy and that the government should have been enforcing its own laws. We are now thrilled to announce that the judicial review filed by Mr. Panunto on behalf of Zoocheck Canada Inc., Voice for Animals Humane Society, and Tove Reece, by way of Originating Application on 6 April 2017 will be heard in court on Dec. 8th, 2017. Even though it’s a long way off, at least we have a date despite the clogged up court system. Now all we have to do is hope that the judge understands how important this is for all animals in zoos in Alberta.

For Immediate Release September 6, 2016

Zoocheck and Voice for Animals Launch New Legal Action to Relieve Lucy’s Distress

In the ongoing battle to have zoo standards enforced in Alberta to protect Lucy, the lone elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, Zoocheck and Voice for Animals Society has filed a Judicial Review. We strongly oppose the government of Alberta’s decision to renew the Valley Zoo’s permit since they have failed to comply with the zoo standards for many years.

“The Alberta zoo standards require that animals be kept in appropriate social groups and that the enclosures meet the animals’ basic needs. “ This is not being done for Lucy” reported Julie Woodyer, Campaigns Director for Zoocheck “We advocated for many years to get the Alberta Zoo Standards enacted, and although among the best in Canada, we now want to ensure they are enforced.”


“Lucy’s circumstances are inadequate in so many ways and most importantly they fail to comply with Alberta’s Zoo Standards. The Zoo Standards were enacted to protect captive animals in Alberta and, therefore, must be enforced.” Tove Reece, Executive Director, Voice for Animals.


Five affidavits have been submitted with the originating notice with evidence to support the assertion by Zoocheck and Voice for Animals that the Ministry of Environment and Parks has failed to meet their duty to ensure that the Valley Zoo is in compliance with the zoo standards prior to issuing a zoo permit.


For more information about the program:
Julie Woodyer, Zoocheck Canada
Office: 1-888-801-3222 (toll free)
Cell #: 416-451-5976


Tove Reece, Voice 4 Animals
Cell #: 780-918-5385 or 780-922-4176

Please click on the icons below to view Dr. Ensley's affidavit, the Originating Application for Judicial Review and associated affidavits:

Anchor 1


Elephants are by nature highly social animals. Females live in stable, tightly knit family groups for their entire lives. These matriarchal groups include mothers and their offspring, grandmothers, aunts and cousins. In the wild they have a large social network consisting of band groups and clans with as many as 550 members. Like humans, elephants have a strong social need to touch and be touched. Elephants normally interact with other members of their family or group by smelling and caressing each other with their trunks. A large behavioural repertoire and sophisticated communication are essential aspects in the lives of these highly intelligent animals. 

Elephants are designed for almost constant movement. In the wild, they easily travel over 50 km a day, reportedly on the move 20 out of every 24 hours. Their home range is 150 – 550 sq. km of soft soil and varied terrain consisting of hills, rivers and lakes. Climate is another important aspect of the lives of elephants; they originate from warm, temperate regions of Africa and Asia and are adapted to those conditions.

Elephants evolved in tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world. Edmonton's long, frigid winters are completely inappropriate for elephants contributing to a variety of health problems.













About Elephants

About Lucy


Lucy, the female Asian elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, was born in Sri Lanka in 1975 (estimated year of birth.) Although not verified, the Valley Zoo claims that Lucy was captured as an orphan. She was then shipped to the Colombo Zoo in 1976 and eventually moved to Edmonton in 1977 for display. Lucy spent the next 12 years alone until the Zoo acquired Samantha, a 1-year-old African elephant. Then, in 2007, the Valley Zoo sent Samantha to North Carolina on a breeding loan. Although the two appeared never to have closely bonded Lucy was alone again, now the most northerly solitary elephant in the world.

Captivity and a cold climate that keeps her confined indoors most of the year, have taken a heavy toll on her health. Medical records show that Lucy has suffered with severe chronic foot infections, arthritis and obesity most of her life. Other sad consequences of captivity exhibited by Lucy are stereotypic (abnormal, repetitive) behaviour and lethargy. Edmonton cannot meet the requirements of elephants and Lucy needs to be moved to a more suitable climate immediately. Watch our YouTube video to learn more about Lucy's plight. (link)


Voice for Animals has been working to have Lucy freed from the Edmonton Valley Zoo and moved to an elephant sanctuary since 2006. We have had the help of a number of other organizations such as Zoocheck Canada and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as well as a long list of animal professionals, celebrities and people from around the world.

Celebrities speaking for Lucy

Bob Barker paid a visit to Edmonton on September 17, 2009, and brought renowned elephant expert Dr. Joyce Poole, PAWS co-founder Ed Stewart, PAWS vet Dr. Dan Famini, and Campaign Director for ZooCheck Canada Julie Woodyer. The kind and generous Bob Barker has worked tirelessly to persuade the City of Edmonton to move Lucy to a sanctuary.

Georges Laraque supports Voice for Animals' campaign to send Lucy to a sanctuary in a warmer climate where she can be with other elephants. In early December, former NHL (Oilers) hockey player and humanitarian, Georges Laraque sent a letter to Mayor Mandel offering to donate $100,000 to the City of Edmonton if they moved Lucy to a warm weather sanctuary. Read Georges letter here.

Sir Paul McCartney invited Voice for Animals to set up a display about Lucy at his concert in Edmonton. He also asked for a meeting with the Mayor.


Joan Jett while in Edmonton for a concert wrote a letter to the Mayor and Valley Zoo director Denise Prefontaine asking them to send Lucy to a sanctuary.


Steve-O spoke up for Lucy during his stand-up comedy tour in Edmonton.


William Shatner wrote a letter to the Mayor asking that Lucy be sent to a sanctuary.

The Campaign Timeline

2017 - Judicial Review filed on behalf of Zoocheck Canada Inc., Voice for Animals Society, and Tove Reece will be heard in court December 8th, 2017

2014 – Voice for Animals and Zoocheck Canada will attempt to force the government of Alberta to enforce the Standards for Zoos in Alberta passed in 2006. The Edmonton Valley Zoo is clearly not in compliance with these regulations in regards to Lucy but so far no action has been taken.


2013 – LUSH Cosmetics gave Voice for Animals a grant for transit advertising for Lucy

during the Municipal election campaign.


2012 – The Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of

Canada. The court rejected the application.


2011 – The Alberta Court of Appeal refuses to rule on Lucy’s condition, claiming that

activists had not followed the proper channels in bringing the City of Edmonton to court

to have Lucy moved from the zoo. It was a split decision with Chief Justice Catherine

Fraser writing a powerful dissenting opinion. In her dissent she wrote “At 36 years of age,

Lucy should be in the prime of her elephant life. She is not. Instead Lucy suffers from

numerous serious ongoing health problems which, on this record, have been caused or

aggravated by the conditions in which she has been confined for years in the Valley Zoo.”


2010, October - Voice for Animals Delivers Cruelty Complaint to the Edmonton Humane Society.


2010, August – Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke ruled that Zoocheck Canada, PETA and Tove Reece did not go through the proper channels in bringing their legal action against the City of Edmonton.


2010, May – Zoocheck Canada, PETA and Voice for Animals filed an application in court claiming that the city is breaching the Animal Protection Act in regards to Lucy. As part of this application, three internationally renowned experts submitted affidavits.

  • Dr. Joyce Poole – has a Ph.D from the University of Cambridge. She is an elephant biologist and ethologist who has spent more than 30 years studying elephant behaviour and communication. (link)

  • Dr. Philip Ensley – is a veterinarian with 30 years of experience working with wild animals in zoos. His professional experience includes 29 years at the San Diego Zoo working with elephants. (link)

  • Dr. William Keith Lindsay – is a Canadian ecologist who has been actively involved in research on the ecology of elephants with the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya since 1977. He has also observed elephants in zoos in Canada and the U.S.


2009, June – Dr. Debi Zimmermann D.V.M., is a local veterinarian who owned a practice that accepted exotic patients as well as wildlife. Dr. Zimmermann wrote a report called “One Veterinarian’s Search for Truth in the ‘Lucy the Elephant’ Debate” which was submitted to Edmonton City Council. Dr. Zimmermann concluded that neither the Edmonton Valley Zoo nor city council were acting in Lucy’s best interests.


2008, July – Voice for Animals Humane Society submitted a report to Edmonton City Council called “Elephants in Zoos – a Dead End.”


2007, January – Winnie Kiiru was a Ph.D student at the University of Kent. Winnie Kiiru was the project manager at the Amboseli Human-Elephant Conflict Project (2005). She wrote a report called “The Sad State of Captive Elephants in Canada” where she stated that the Edmonton Valley Zoo is the worst zoo for elephants in Canada.


2006, May – Voice for Animals Humane Society initiated the campaign to free Lucy the elephants and to send her to a sanctuary in the U.S.

Captivity-induced Health Problems

Lucy, like other elephants in zoos and circuses, suffers the effects of confinement.

Zoo officials work hard to convince the public that the elephants in their care are happy and healthy. On the contrary, most zoo visitors would be shocked to learn that many of the elephants on display survive on a daily diet of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to mask captivity related ailments, the direct result of inactivity from confinement in artificial and restrictive enclosures.


Restricted Movements Results in Health Problems and Premature Death


Zoos cannot provide the vast acreage necessary to accomodate elephants’ need to walk. As the world’s largest land mammal, elephants are designed for almost constant movement and wild elephant herds easily travel over thirty miles a day on soft soils and varied terrain. Elephants in zoos, by contrast, spend their entire lives inactive in tiny enclosures, standing on concrete or hard compacted dirt. As a result, they suffer extremely painful arthritic and degenerative joint disorders and recurrent foot infections, as well as digestive problems. With all the stress and illness elephants suffer in zoos, it is no surprise thast they live only about half as long as wild elephants. Elephants in the wild can live to be seventy years old or older. According to the AZA (American Zoological Association), elephants in U.S. zoos die on average at thirty four years old.


Psychological Deterioration


Neurotic behaviours are common consequences of severe confinement. Neurotic reactions can take the form of rocking or swaying, head nodding or other repetitive motions. Sadly, many zoos still use force and dominance to manage elephants. Historically elephants have been managed through coercive force such as chaining for prolonged periods and use of “bullhooks” and electric hot shots. Chaining has a direct correlation to neurotic behaviour in elephants.

The bullhook, also called the ankus, is a tool used to punish and control elephants. The handle is made of wood, metal, plastic or fiberglass and there is a sharp steel hook at one end. Both ends inflict damage. The triner uses the hook to apply varying degrees of pressure to sensitive spots on the elephant’s bdy, causing the elephants to move away from the source of discomfort. The thickness of the elephant’s skin ranges from one inch across the back and hindquarters to paper-thin around the mouth and eyes, inside the ears and at the anus. Their skin appears deceptively tough but in reality it is so delicate that an elephant can feel the pain of an insect bite. A bullhook can easily inflict pain and injury on an elephant’s sensitive skin. Trainers often embed the hook in the soft tissue behind the ears, inside the ear and mouth, in the tissue around the anus and in the tender spots under the chin and around the feet


Infant Mortality


Programs to breed elephants in captivity have largely failed, with high infant mortality rates and the premature shut down of most female elephant’s reproductive systems. Without the complex social network that sustains elephants in the wild, new elephant mothers in captivity are ill equipped to nurture infants causing many of them to die. Inexperienced mothers would normally learn from other females in the family herd, who help ensure the infants’ survival. Zoos cannot begin to accomodate these vital social structures.


Incompatible Climate


Zoos in cold climates pose additional health threats to elephants who originate from warm, temperate regions of Africa and Asia. Cold winters force elephants indoors for months at a time, into cramped enclosures that are even smaller than their inadequate outdoor areas. Forced indoors, elephants stand on concrete surfaces in their own urine and feces, which can lead to foot infections.


Broken Families


Zoos simply are not suited to meeting elephants’ social needs. In the wild, elephants live in complex societies made up of extended family members led by a mature matriarch. Female elephants stay with their herd for their entire lives and males do not leave the family until around fourteen years of age, always maintaining rich relationships with other bulls and females. In stark contrast, some elephants in zoos actually live in solitary confinement. Those elephants lucky enough to bond with another elephant in a zoo suffer when that friendship is disregarded by common zoo animal-swapping programs. Zoos shuffle elephants around like pieces of furniture with little or no regard for their feelings.


Devastation, Not Conservation


Zoos falsely claim that exhibiting elephants is part of a conservation effort to ensure the species’ survival. In fact, zoos actually contribute to the problem elephants face by abducting young elephants from their families in the wild to be put on display.True conservation involves protection of the natural habitat of elephants in Africa and Asia and strict anti-poaching efforts.


Please send your letters to Edmonton City Council to let them know that you think keeping Lucy in Edmonton is unacceptable. To contact the Mayor and city Councillors go to the link below.




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