Edmonton Valley Zoo Under Investigation After Admitting to Poor Conditions

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is under investigation after a complaint by Animal Justice, after the Zoo publicly admitted to concerning and potentially unlawful conditions in a budget report before Edmonton’s city council.

Animal Justice filed a complaint with Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), a zoo industry organization that has given a stamp of approval to the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Animal Justice’s complaint highlighted a request by the Zoo for nearly $11 million from the City of Edmonton to address serious animal welfare and public safety issues, including concerns over the well-being of Lucy, an elephant notoriously kept all by herself at the Zoo. 

The budget report states the Zoo is not complying with the industry’s own CAZA standards, and suggests it is also in breach of Alberta’s provincial zoo standards. CAZA has confirmed that it has launched “a formal investigation” into the Zoo. Animal Justice has also alerted provincial and municipal law enforcement authorities about potential unlawful conditions at the Zoo.

The problems include:

  • New and troubling details about the inadequate nature of Lucy’s enclosures, including poor air quality. The Zoo wants a device to eliminate dust that Lucy is forced to breathe, provide UV lights to keep her healthy, and provide additional space for her to exercise.
  • The barn used to keep zebras no longer meets the basic standards required for the animals’ care, and needs to be replaced. Animals have been injured as a result of these problems.
  • The camel enclosure was not built for camels, and lacks critical infrastructure for managing the five animals confined at the Zoo.
  • Several birds of prey are kept in enclosures too small to allow them to fly.
  • Nine takins also live in enclosures that were not designed to house the occasionally aggressive animals and are flagged as “no longer adequate”.
  • There are ongoing leaks in the seal pool basins which are jeopardizing the safety of animals, staff and patrons.

It’s shocking that CAZA didn’t launch an investigation until Animal Justice filed a complaint, considering the organization was made aware of the problems at the Zoo previously when the animal welfare concerns were discussed at Edmonton City Council and covered by media outlets. CAZA renewed the Zoo’s accreditation in October 2022, and there are further questions about how the Zoo could have been re-accredited in light of its welfare and safety problems.

Local Edmonton animal advocates and animal protection groups like Zoocheck have been fighting for years to help Lucy the elephant, including by filing high-profile lawsuits. These legal efforts unfortunately have been unsuccessful, and now it appears that the Zoo is providing inadequate care for many other animals as well.

The Jane Goodall Act, which is currently working its way through the legislative process, would protect hundreds of wild and exotic species from being held in captivity in Canada. Wild animals’ needs can never truly be met in captivity, which doesn’t come close to replicating diverse natural habitats. But the bill is still a big step because Canada’s current laws for zoo animals are inadequate to protect animals from suffering in captivity.

Banner: Jo-Anne McArthur | Zoocheck