Lucy the elephant faces death in Edmonton: Barker
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, February 24, 2009 7:40PM EST
Bob Barker, former host of The Price is Right, says records obtained from an Edmonton zoo prove that Lucy the elephant is in ill health and should come on down to a sanctuary in California.
Barker, a staunch animal rights activist, said official documents show that Lucy has suffered from a potentially lethal abscess on her left foot since 1989.
"These are things that the zoo entered into a record," Barker told CTV Newsnet on Tuesday, adding that the documents were obtained under a Freedom of Information request.
Barker said that such foot infections can spread and ultimately lead to death for captive elephants, which spend most of their time standing on hard surfaces like concrete.
"It's a wonder that she isn't dead already," he said.
But officials at Edmonton's Valley Zoo maintain that Lucy is in good health and has received great care over her three decades at the facility.
Dean Treichel, who heads up the zoo's operations, said the document Barker is referring to is actually a "condensed" medical record which covers a period of nearly two decades.
"There are no more health problems with her feet," Treichel told CTV Newsnet on Tuesday, adding that he has spent nearly 30 years caring for the animal.
"We're held to a very high standard," he said, noting that the biggest concern for Lucy at the moment is a molar problem.
Treichel also dismissed claims that Lucy is emotionally distraught and often bangs her head against walls.
But Barker said that elephants are herd animals that require company in order to be fully healthy.
"Even if she were in good health, she would be psychologically suffering in that zoo," he said.
"She is being tortured in that she is isolated and alone. A female elephant has terrible psychological problems when she is held alone."
Lucy became the zoo's lone elephant in September 2007, when Samantha the elephant was shipped away to another zoo for breeding purposes.
Barker became aware of Lucy's situation after Zoocheck Canada reported that the elephant "stands stationary much of the time, sometimes rocking back and forth, and has numerous ongoing health issues."
Responding to concerns that Lucy is too frail to travel, Barker said a specialist from the California-based Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary is willing to travel north for an inspection.
"If she's unable to travel, we don't want her to travel," said Barker, adding that he discussed a possible PAWS inspection with Edmonton Coun. Linda Sloan.
Barker said that if the health problems can be cleared up, "then we want those to get corrected and then get her out into a sanctuary where she can live the life that nature intended."
Sloan, meanwhile, said that she would be "honoured" if Barker wanted to visit the zoo in person to check on the elephant's condition.
About two years ago, rights activists launched a similar petition to move Lucy to a sanctuary in Tennessee.