Protesters blockade the entrance to the Valley Zoo in Edmonton, Alta., on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013.
Credits: Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun
EDMONTON -- Almost two dozen protesters blockaded the Edmonton Valley Zoo on Family Day to protest the city's decision to keep Lucy the Elephant in Edmonton.
Setting up a large scaffold using three poles and hoisting a protester more than 20 feet into the air over the parking lot entrance, the group forced Edmonton families to park along Buena Vista Road on Monday morning.
"There's been a number of patrons that expressed some concern that they were impeded getting into the facility ... but they're still here," said Dean Triechel, the zoo's operations supervisor.
"From what I've seen today, everybody is having a great time and it's a good day to come down to the zoo."
At the entrance to the empty parking lot, protesters held signs reading, "Free Lucy" and "Shame on Zoo." One banner asked, "Why won't the Valley Zoo allow veteran zoologists to help Lucy with her illness?"
Veterinarian Dr. James Oosterhuis examined the 38-year-old elephant in 2009 and determined it would be dangerous to relocate her because of a molar that caused swelling and blocked her nasal passage, creating breathing difficulties even after the tooth was removed.
Triechel said they've already consulted several internal and external experts on Lucy's condition and have determined that moving her would be problematic and possibly fatal for the middle-aged elephant.
The protest group also claims that as the only elephant at the zoo, Lucy is lonely.
"Lucy has been here for a great length of time as an individual elephant and she truthfully has a family here in staff," Triechel said.
But protesters say the experts and officials are lying to make people not care about Lucy.
"It's just a way of telling people that they don't need to care and they don't need to worry but it's not true. There was an elephant moved from Alaska that was in way worse shape," said Farris Anderson, who chained herself to the tripod scaffold.
"We want to know what her health is like and we want her sent to a sanctuary. She doesn't belong in this climate."
Edmonton resident Don McConnell said the protest was an inconvenience for his family, but he wouldn't let it ruin his family's day at the zoo.
"As long as the zoologists who have looked into it are reputable and they know what they're doing and have made their decision based on evidence, then we can't move her."