Questions and Answers about Lucy
We get asked lots of questions about Lucy, the Asian elephant living at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Here are some of the common questions and our answers:
How old is Lucy?
Lucy is 40 years old.
Lucy arrived at the Edmonton Valley Zoo on May 19, 1977, from the Pinnewala Animal Orphanage in Sri Lanka. As she was an orphan, she was assessed developmentally and was believed to be about two years old at that time.
The Edmonton Valley Zoo celebrates her birthday each year on Canada Day.
How does Lucy start her day?
In the morning Lucy's care team meets to discuss her day – walk times, her meals, physical therapy, play time – all the things that she will do that day. The team does this every morning, as it's important to vary her schedule daily to ensure she is intellectually stimulated and not bored from rigid routines.
Care staff enter the building quietly around 7am and check to see if she is awake or still sleeping. They keep the lights low until she is fully awake.
When Lucy wakes up, she likes to say good morning by having her tongue rubbed. This is a common way for elephants to say hello.
After this morning ritual, Lucy is checked over to ensure everything is okay and that she's ready for the day.
Staff will also check her sand pile where she sleeps. If there is a perfect imprint of Lucy's body, they know she has had a deep sleep. This is most often the case. If Lucy has not had a deep sleep, her care staff will pay close attention to Lucy to see if there is a reason why she may have been disturbed.
What does Lucy eat?
It's important to take into consideration an elephant's size and frame when considering a meal plan.
Lucy's daily meal plan incorporates a variety of dry grasses, herbivore pellets, vegetables and fruit. Lucy's care team work with an animal nutritionist to ensure she is eating a healthy diet and getting the nutrients she needs.
Lucy's favourite things to eat are broccoli and watermelon. She doesn't like eggplant, tomatoes or celery.
As elephants would need to forage for food in the wild, Lucy's food is put in high places, where she would need to reach up to find food: inside containers where she shakes, rattles and rolls the container to find the food; or in various areas inside and outside of her barn so she must walk around a large area find her food.
Lucy has fresh water to drink all day. Although Lucy has two bath tub size water containers for her drinking water, she prefers to use the hose. Sometimes she wants the care staff to hold the hose for her and other times she does it on her own.
What exercise does Lucy get?
Each day Lucy goes for long walks and does a variety of exercises. Lucy's exercises are part of a program developed by a rehabilitation therapist to help Lucy lose weight and improve her range of motion.
Lucy's first walk of the day is a brisk walk that incorporates muscle exercises. This means hills and valleys to stretch all of her muscle groups; this also forms part of her physiotherapy to treat her arthritis.
Each afternoon, she does exercises with her care staff. Lucy is very careful with her movements. When ready to back up, she will stretch her back leg out to check and see if anyone is behind her.
In the late afternoon or early evening, Lucy goes for a long walk to exercise her muscles and stimulate her brain. This is when she plays games.
She likes to play hide and seek in the pasture. She searches the wooded area for her care givers and when she finds them she makes an announcement with a rumble or a roar.
As she walks through the pasture, Lucy likes to stop and push down a dead tree or two. Elephants can easily do this and Lucy enjoys the activity.
How does Lucy take baths?
Usually Lucy has a bath every second day, but will bath more frequently in hot weather.
Every inch of Lucy is scrubbed with large and small brushes. When the scrubbing is complete, the zoo staff rinse her back, but she likes to rinse her front. She picks up the hose, rinses and then will hand back the hose. If she puts the hose down, it doesn't mean she is finished rinsing. The care staff will ask her if she is done before they put away the hose.
In the cooler months, Lucy's body must be completely dry before going outside, so the staff will play games with her until she is dry and ready for her walk.
How does Lucy go to sleep at night?
Lucy has quiet time before bed during which staff will periodically check on her. Her bed time is usually around 10pm. Before her care staff says good night, she has a bed time snack. The lights are then turned off so she can peacefully sleep.
What is Lucy's home like?
Lucy is a lucky elephant. She gets to call the whole Edmonton Valley Zoo home and is taken for long walks in the back pasture for hours at a time. For meals and sleeping, Lucy goes back to the elephant enclosure that was designed especially for her. The floors inside her barn are heated and slanted to drain away any water or urine. Lucy has three big rooms inside the barn. In two rooms the floors are covered with sand, and the floor in the main room is covered with rubber matting.
The building is also heated from overhead with extra-large vents. The walls are textured to aid in skin care. After a bath she rubs against the walls to remove any dead skin.
She sleeps in one of the smaller rooms on a bed of sand that allows her to easily lie down and enjoy a comfortable sleep.
The barn is situated between two large outdoor areas that Lucy has access to when she is not walking in the back pasture area of the zoo.
Is Lucy a healthy elephant?
Lucy is a content and well-adjusted elephant with some manageable health issues, the most significant of which is a respiratory problem that makes it difficult for her to breathe when she is under stress. Her breathing issue is well managed at the Edmonton Valley Zoo where she is calm and comfortable. However, a third-party specialist who examined Lucy concluded a stressful move and relocation would be life-threatening given her breathing problems.
Lucy also has arthritis. She receives excellent care in managing this condition including regular rehabilitation therapy and daily walks. Her therapy includes therapeutic laser treatments to mitigate the arthritis in her leg joints. Since this program was started in 2009, Lucy has shown steady improvement.
On her feet, Lucy has some pad defects that are the result of conformational defects – she was born pigeon-toed and bow-legged. As these issues put extra stress on Lucy's feet, her caregivers check and condition her feet twice daily.
Why doesn't the zoo move Lucy to a place with a warmer climate?
At 39 years of age, Lucy's health is stable and she has a fulfilling and comfortable life. However, she has a particularly complicated medical issue that must be acknowledged and responsibly managed.
Lucy has a breathing problem. Elephants usually breathe through their trunks. Lucy breathes through her mouth. Under stress, or during other times of increased need for oxygen, Lucy's ability to breathe is stretched almost beyond her capacity. It is imperative to keep her calm, quiet and properly managed to prevent any unnecessary or excessive stress.
Because of all of this, moving Lucy would be life threatening and the City of Edmonton is committed to making decisions in the best interest of Lucy.