EDMONTON — After just a month on a new weight loss program, the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s solitary elephant has shed weight equivalent to the size of an adult black bear, the zoo’s veterinarian said Wednesday.
Dr. Milton Ness said the combination of a strict diet and an exercise regime that includes hill training has seen Lucy the Indian elephant drop 400 pounds.
“Weight loss is a real challenge no matter if it’s an elephant or a person but Lucy is doing really well,” he said, noting that at her heaviest, Lucy weighed nearly 4,300 kilograms,
The goal is for Lucy to lose about 450 kilograms within a year.
Lucy has been at the heart of a heated debate between civic officials and animal-rights activists.
The former believe the 34-year-old pachyderm, who suffers from numerous health problems, is better off in her long-time home at the Edmonton facility.
But groups such as People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals Lucy should be moved to an elephant sanctuary.
in the United States, where the climate would be better for her.
In addition to being overweight, Lucy has arthritis and significant respiratory problems that constrict her ability to breathe through her trunk.
Ness said new anti-inflammatory medication has curtailed some of the problems related to an infected tooth that had to be removed, which is clearing some of the congestion in her trunk.
Zoocheck Canada spokeswoman Julie Woodyer said she still believes Lucy doesn’t belong in Edmonton and needs to be moved to a warmer place where she can interact with members of her own species.
“Obviously anything that makes her in better condition to be moved is wonderful,” Woodyer said.
Woodyer said the city has been given until Monday to produce documents showing proof that moving Lucy would be a health risk or they will carry forward with legal action to force a move.
The debate over Lucy’s health has gained the attention of some celebrity animal-rights supporters.
“Star Trek” star William Shatner wrote a letter to the city pleading Lucy’s case while “Price is Right” host Bob Barker visited the city in mid-September to meet the elephant and see her condition for himself.