EDMONTON — Actor William Shatner has joined a growing list of celebrities lobbying to see a lone elephant at Edmonton’s Valley Zoo moved to another facility.
On Tuesday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a letter written by the Star Trek star to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel.
In the letter, Shatner writes that although Edmonton “can capably take care of its own … in a larger sense, these extraordinary animals are everyone’s responsibility … she’s old, feeble and many of us know how that feels.”
Shatner noted that Edmonton’s long and frigid winters mean that Lucy spends the majority of her time indoors.
Other celebrities such as game-show host Bob Barker are also fighting for Lucy’s relocation, arguing that elephants are social animals that need to be with other elephants.
Zoocheck Canada has said that Barker, a renowned animal-rights activist, plans on coming to the city in person Sept. 17 to put pressure on the city.
Last May, a number of Canadian authors, including Barbara Gowdy, Elizabeth Abbott, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, sent a letter to the Mandel asking him to facilitate Lucy’s transfer to a better home.
Zoo officials aren’t budging.
“Celebrities have their right to their opinions but unfortunately I don’t believe that they’ve got all the information,” said Dr. Milton Ness, veterinarian at the Valley Zoo.
“I am a Star Trek fan, but Lucy is really where she’s supposed to be.”
Lucy, an Asian elephant, has been at the zoo for 32 years. Until September 2007, she had a companion in Samantha, a 19-year-old African elephant.
However, the zoo shipped Samantha to a breeding program in Asheboro, N.C., leaving Lucy on her own.
Ness said Lucy does suffer from arthritis, which is managed by low doses of medication and physiotherapy. She also has a dental issue that causes swelling in the sinus area, making it difficult for her to breathe through her trunk.
He has said moving Lucy would be too stressful for her at her age.
“Lucy is socially isolated, forced to endure cold weather, has very little space in her enclosure and many medical problems,” Julie Woodyer, national campaign director with Zoocheck Canada, has said.
Woodyer has also argued that the city is breaching provincial standards for zoos by keeping Lucy on her own, although Bill Peters, president of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said Lucy would fall under a health exception to that rule.
Mandel would not comment on Tuesday, but city councillor Ben Henderson said it’s easy to jump to conclusions.
“Mr. Shatner may know more about elephants than I do, but I’m guessing — no.”