Bob Barker wants Edmonton elephant moved

FRANK LANDRY, CITY HALL BUREAU

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Former TV game show host Bob Barker says he'd be willing to "come on down" to Edmonton if it would help get Lucy the elephant out of the Valley Zoo.

The retired host of The Price Is Right and well-known animal-rights activist wants Lucy moved to a U.S. elephant sanctuary, arguing she'd be happier there.

But a zoo official says Barker doesn't have all his facts, and that any lengthy trip would kill the 33-year-old mammal.

"What I want to say to the decision makers is that the enlightened, progressive zoos have come to terms with the fact that an elephant cannot be happy or healthy in a zoo," Barker told Sun Media yesterday from his Hollywood, Calif., home.

"And for this reason, zoos all over the United States, all over the world as a matter of fact, are closing their elephant exhibits.

"And yet there are these zoos that just don't get the message."

Barker, 85, said he found out about Lucy through a letter from Zoocheck Canada, a Toronto-based animal rights group.

They've argued Edmonton's cold climate and small zoo enclosure are making Lucy sick, stressed and bored.

Barker said he took it upon himself to write all the councillors and Mayor Stephen Mandel expressing his concerns.

Only Coun. Linda Sloan responded, saying she's confident Lucy is "extremely well-cared for" and that her health is not deteriorating.

But Barker said he wants to bring in his own elephant expert to examine Lucy.

Ideally, he said he would like to see her "released from this suffering" and taken to an elephant sanctuary in either California or Tennessee.

He said he's already helped place several elephants in the California facility - run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) - including one from the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage.

"I'm going to do everything I can to help," Barker vowed.

"I'll come up there if necessary ... if I can come up and be of any service.

"I went to Anchorage for a news conference and we stirred things up there."

Dean Treichel, the Valley Zoo's operations supervisor, said Lucy has arthritis and a "malpositioned" molar which causes respiratory problems, but that's the extent of her health issues.

She's a habituated elephant who considers humans as her herd and may not interact socially with other elephants at a sanctuary, he said.

"But the bottom line is we can't ship her, even if we wanted to," Treichel said. "Because of that malpositioned tooth, we think she would die in transit.

"Stamp all your feet all you want and say Lucy isn't being treated properly, but she is.

"She's a healthy elephant."

Sloan said she admires Barker's advocacy work - and admits to being a one-time fan of The Price Is Right. But she suggested in this case the decision-making be left to locals.

"I would tend to say, with due respect to Mr. Barker, that council has to make this decision, respecting all aspects of it, the first and foremost being Lucy's well-being."


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