Move elephant to U.S., ex-game show host Bob Barker urges city zoo
Retired game show host Bob Barker has sent a letter to Edmonton City Council urging the city-owned Valley Zoo to transfer its only elephant, Lucy, to a sanctuary in the United States.
Zoocheck Canada, an animal welfare organization, brought the case to Barker's attention.
"Poor Lucy needs all the help we can give her, and that's what I've been doing," Barker told CBC News on Monday.
Barker, who retired as the host of the television game show Price is Right in 2007, is well-known for his work as an animal rights advocate.
Lucy has been dealing with several illnesses, including foot infections and arthritis, according to health records obtained by Zoocheck Canada, an animal welfare organization.
Barker said he believes the elephant's health problems will get worse in Edmonton and called on the public to put pressure on the zoo to move the animal to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
Proponents of the move have argued that the 1,100-hectare site would give Lucy the chance to regularly interact with other elephants, something she hasn't been able to do since September 2007, when the zoo's only other elephant, Samantha, was moved to be part of a breeding program at a zoo in North Carolina.
Officials at the Valley Zoo, where Lucy has lived for 30 years, have rebuffed earlier offers to relocate the Asian elephant to Tennessee because they say a move could aggravate her health problems.
Lucy is currently breathing through her mouth because of a wrongly positioned molar, said Dean Treichel, operations supervisor at the Valley Zoo, but veterinarians are waiting to see if the tooth will fall out on its own.
"Moving her is not an option right now," Treichel said. "Again, this malpositioned tooth, when we talk to the industry experts, what they're indicating to us that if you put her in any form of transport, more than likely you end up killing her."
Lucy has problems with arthritis, which the zoo is managing with exercise and physiotherapy, Treichel said, but her feet are currently in excellent condition.
"Bob Barker is a U.S. citizen that is basing his claims against us from third-party information," Treichel said. "Bob's never contacted us, never talked to us about it, and [we] kind of wish he would so we could tell him what the situation truly is."
On Monday, some Edmonton city councillors said they wanted to keep Lucy where she is.
"Well, I love Lucy," said Coun. Ron Hayter. "I think she's been given outstanding treatment here in Edmonton, and I think it would be a mistake to move her at her age ... when she really enjoys it here."
"I admire him and I admire his advocacy," Coun. Linda Sloan said of Barker. "But I think that all of the components of Lucy's future have to be considered by council, and it can't be based on the submission of one letter."
Barker refuted the city's contention that a move would be bad for Lucy's health.
"It's unlikely that she could not be moved," Barker said. "It might require a certain amount of treatment and special care to prepare her to be moved, but we would have people who would go up there and do that."