Over time, the Edmonton Valley Zoo's animal collection shifts and changes as the goals of the zoo and the zoological community evolve. Decisions must be based on what is best for the individual animals and the species. Moving forward, the zoo’s collection decisions will be based on these criteria:
- Can we meet the habitat and the care requirements of the animals?
- Do we have the staff expertise?
- Does acquiring the species enhance learning opportunities?
- Does acquiring the species support conservation needs or initiatives?
- Are the animals available from other facilities?
Collection decisions based on the best interests of animals
The Edmonton Valley Zoo's Animal Collection Plan is an evolving document that is updated regularly. And while the zoo makes plans to shift and adjust its animal collection based on the collection criteria – eliminating certain species from the plan and adding others – the actual process must be handled carefully and ethically.
The decision to phase out elephants from the zoo collection is an example of this delicate process. In the 2005 Master Plan, Appendix 6.3 detailed five options for the future of elephants at the zoo. These options ranged from maintaining an elephant herd to not having elephants at the zoo.
Following the release of the Master Plan, zoo staff embarked on a lengthy and thoughtful consultation and decision process. At the time, the zoo was home to two elephants, Samantha and Lucy. It was determined that elephants will not be part of the Edmonton Valley Zoo animal collection in the long-term.
With this decision in mind, Samantha, the zoo's African elephant, was moved to become part of a breeding herd at the North Carolina Zoo. While she will not return to Edmonton, the decision was made to send her on a "loan" to ensure that the zoo retains the ability to influence any decisions made regarding Samantha's welfare.
Now 39-years-old, the zoo's Asian elephant, Lucy, came to the Edmonton Valley Zoo in 1977 as an orphan. Lucy is a calm well-adjusted animal with some manageable health conditions, including a respiratory condition for which treatment is ongoing. It is this same condition which now precludes any thought of placing Lucy in a stressful situation, such as transporting her and/or placing her with unfamiliar caregivers in an unfamiliar environment. To do so would be life-threatening. While the long-term goal is not to have elephants, the current priority is Lucy's health and overall well-being, and the Edmonton Valley Zoo will continue to be fully responsible for her.
The process undertaken to decide the future of elephants at the Edmonton Valley Zoo highlights the care that must be taken when collection planning. Zoos are stewards of living, breathing individual animals and they are committed to the best interests of these individuals – even if the species will not continue to be part of the collection in future years.