Lucy, our Asian elephant, arrived at the Edmonton Valley Zoo in 1977, through a partnership between the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage and Colombo Zoo. She was estimated to be two years old.
If a picture tells a thousand words, than a video must share a million.To see Lucy, our famous Asian elephant, catching a soft ball and playing soccer with her keepers; to witness her abounding affection for those same people who care for her and make up her family herd, wrapping her trunk and flapping ears around their bodies, is an awe inspiring experience. A vision that words can not express.
The video I am referring to is Lucy’s Enrichment & Socialization, is part of a four-part series that can be found above.
In captivity, not all elephants bond to other elephants. Some, such as Lucy, prefer the company of humans, and are referred to as “people elephants.”
Dean Treichel, now the Operations Supervisor at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, started working with Lucy in 1979.
“She was about four years old and very smart,” Treichel says with a telling grin. “She would definitely test a new keeper but as she got older and we got more confident in her training, we would take her out daily for long walks as part of her enrichment. Back then, the zoo was closed during the winter and we had the full run of the grounds.”
“After a long walk, we’d come up behind the Scottish Highland cows,” tells Treichel. “She would pick up the pace and, as we approached, start trumpeting, flapping her ears and spin circles. When the cows ran away, she seemed pretty proud of herself and would head back to the barn.”
One of Dean’s favourite memories is of the times he and Lucy spent on Mo Hill (named after Maureen, one of her current keepers). Dean and Lucy would park themselves on Mo Hill on a Sunday afternoon, inside the post and chain fence. Dean would answer questions from the public as Lucy contentedly munched on grass.
“Those were my favourite afternoons,” Dean reminisces, “and Lucy loved it!”
Another zookeeper with a lifetime of tales to share is Maureen Anderson, who has been working with Lucy for 28 years.
“Lucy was about 14 years old when I started working with her. We’d take these long walks and play hide and seek and if she couldn’t find me, she would call out and trumpet. Lucy could be a brat back then, eat your gloves, chew up the hose, anything she could stick in her mouth. She was always curious and exploring.”
Anderson will always remember when her father passed away. “I came to work and tried to suck it up but Lucy could sense something was wrong. She came right over to me and wrapped her trunk around me and pulled me in for a long hug. When my younger sister passed away a few years later, Lucy did the exact same thing.”
“Lucy reads your body language and I believe, has a sixth sense. One of our volunteers was very upset when she lost her dog. Lucy walked straight to her, took her hand and put it in her mouth, as if to comfort her.”
Lucy’s enrichment, aside from daily walks year round, includes kick ball – her treasured big black ball is named Baby – playing catch, hide and seek, and creating her artistic masterpieces – she leans towards abstraction – that can be purchased at the Zootique. The keepers also find interesting ways to serve her meals.
Watch Lucy’s Enrichment & Socialization above, you will smile the entire two minutes!
Lucy is famous for her paintings. Check them out here: