EDMONTON -- A small group of demonstrators blocked traffic at Edmonton's Valley Zoo to protest what they say is poor treatment of the facility's lone female elephant.
The group wants Lucy to be transferred to an elephant sanctuary and carried signs reading: "Lucy is not too old to move.''
Protester Faris Anderson says the group wants a second opinion on Lucy's health, saying Edmonton's weather is too harsh and the Asian elephant will die if she stays in the city.
Anderson says keeping Lucy alone when elephants are by nature social animals is like keeping humans in solitary confinement in Siberia.
Megan Dean brought her three children to the zoo Monday as a Family Day outing and says she was disappointed to see the protest.
She says the protest forced her to park a long distance away from the entrance and that was inconvenient.
"(Lucy) seems to be well-maintained here and out and about,'' says Dean. "I think the zoo knows what they're doing, they're experts. I think she's in good care.''
The protest angered several drivers who honked their horns and nudged the protesters with their vehicles.
In turn, some demonstrators approached young children and told them the zoo was a cruel place.
Police were called in to restore the peace, telling the protesters they had a right to demonstrate but could not block traffic.
Lucy has arthritis and other ailments including respiratory problems.
The ongoing campaign by a variety of animal rights groups has attracted the support of several celebrities, including retired game-show host Bob Barker and former hockey player Georges Laraque.
Zoo officials, along with a veterinary specialist hired by the city to examine Lucy back in 2011, have said that a move would be too stressful and could even be life-threatening for the elephant.
Officials have maintained that Lucy is well-cared for and is content at the zoo and their focus is working with Lucy to improve her health before any move is considered.
"We have brought in independent, third-party people, to assess Lucy's health,'' said Dean Treichel, operations supervisor at the zoo.
"We feel we have consulted people that have a specialty that really would help to determine Lucy's situation and make good decisions on her welfare.''
However, officials have also said Lucy will be the last elephant to be housed at the Valley Zoo.
"Once the situation with Lucy is resolved, we will no longer be in the elephant business,'' said Treichel. "We feel we couldn't afford to build the kind of environment that is required now to meet the current standards within the zoo industry in terms of size, scope and scale.''
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