The Edmonton Valley Zoo is a zoo located in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta's river valley. The Edmonton Valley Zoo is owned and operated by the City of Edmonton and is open 364 days a year, only closing on Christmas. The zoo is currently accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is one of three accredited zoos in Alberta .
The Valley Zoo opened on July 1, 1959 as a replacement for a previous Edmonton Zoo (Borden Park Zoo) which was torn down to expand Northlands Park (now Northlands). The zoo is home to over 350 exotic and native animals and houses over 100 different species. In 2007, the Edmonton Valley Zoo launched the Makira Conservation Fund Initiative in honour of their newly-unveiled lemur habitat, aptly named the Makira Outpost after the Makira forest region in Madagascar . In addition to this cause, the zoo also raises funds and awareness for other endangered animals such as red pandas, through the Red Panda Network, and various other conservation efforts . This facility also actively promotes animal conservation through its participation in the Species Survival Plan, an international effort led by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association which ultimately aims to restore endangered animal populations to the wild, for a variety of species. They have successfully raised six red panda cubs since 2007
The Edmonton Valley Zoo has just undergone the creation of a new master plan that has been approved by city council. The plan calls for the zoo to be organized into geographical areas focusing on a warm heart and a cold exterior. This means that all of the animals that require tropical temperatures will be focused in the center of the zoo and while all animals that do not require tropical temperatures will be focused on the outside. The Valley Zoo Development Society is currently fundraising for the first step of the master plan, as although the council approved the plan they have not provided any funding for it.Exhibits
- Inner Zoo. The Inner Zoo is the area of the zoo that was originally the Storyland Valley Zoo. The vast majority of the area was constructed in 1959. Animals that live within this area of the zoo during summer include: American White Pelicans, Capybara, Emus, Waterfowl, Spider and Squirrel Monkeys, Alpaca, Callimicos, North American River Otters, Red Pandas, Guinea Pigs, and also includes a Petting Zoo filled with many domestic farm and pet animals. Only the Otters, Alpacas, and Red Pandas are located in Inner Zoo during the winter.
- Makira Outpost. Makira Outpost is a new exhibit just opened up in the summer of 2007 and is home to the zoos lemurs. The new exhibit uses many new exhibit methods. The lemurs have access to a large outdoor island with two large elm trees for climbing. It also has two outdoor enclosures that have zoomesh a nearly invisible mesh. The indoor enclosures are huge and benefit from lots of natural light. The animals housed in Makira outpost include: Ring-tailed lemurs, African Spurred Tortoise, and Red-fronted Lemurs.
- Carnivore Alley. The Carnivore Alley is home to majority of the zoos carnivores. Here you can see Swift Foxes, Coatimundi, Snow Leopards, Amur Tigers, Arctic Wolves and an African Serval Cat.
- Elephant House and Exhibit. The Valley Zoo's Elephant House is home to Lucy, a female Asian Elephant who was orphaned in Sri Lanka in 1975 and came to the zoo at the age of two.
- Saito Center. The Saito Center is named after the zoo's former veterinarian who died shortly before construction of the building. Originally designed as a new winter holding building it now houses all the zoo's fragile animals. It is winter home to all of the zoo's primate species, as well as the zoo's South American Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, reptile and nocturnal wing, and many of the zoo's smaller animals.
- African Veldt. The African veldt is home to Addax, Peacocks, Pygmy Zebu Cattle, and Grevy's Zebras.
- Back Paddocks. The back paddocks are home to the zoos larger hoof stock and include Bactrian camel, West Caucasian Turs, Guanacos, Bighorn sheep, Pony rides, and a Sichuan Takin group. Sichuan Takins are very rare and only two other zoos in Canada house them.
- Birds of Prey. The Birds of Prey area features "non-releasable" raptors in flight shows and outreach programs. Some highlight species include Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Snowy Owls.
The residence of Lucy the elephant at the Valley Zoo is currently a source of controversy. Animal welfare groups argue that it is inappropriate to keep Lucy isolated because female elephants are highly social and being part of a family/herd is essential to their psychological health and well-being. Also, critics of the zoo argue that Edmonton's cold climate, lack of space at the zoo, in combination with social isolation, has caused Lucy to become unhealthy (with a series of ongoing health issues), lethargic and to develop abnormal stereotypic behaviours, such as rocking back and forth.
In 2009, 36 Canadian authors wrote to the City of Edmonton asking that Lucy be assessed by an independent veterinarian and other elephant experts to determine the most appropriate method and best time to transfer Lucy to an elephant sanctuary.
Also, Bob Barker, who was involved in the transfer of Maggie the elephant from the Alaska Zoo to a California sanctuary, entered the debate by writing to the Mayor of Edmonton asking for the transfer of Lucy to a sanctuary where she can be in the company of other elephants and enjoy more freedom and space to roam.
On September 10, 2009, James Oosterhuis, a lead researcher with the Colyer Institute, a non-profit centre in San Diego, California, for the study of oral disease and nutrition with exotic animals, examined Lucy in her habitat in Edmonton. " current respiratory problems preclude any thought of moving her and in fact it would (be) life threatening for her to be placed under that kind of stress. It is my opinion that it would be unethical for any veterinarian to recommend moving her and in fact would be malpractice to sign a health certificate for her at this time."
On February 1, 2010, lawyer Clayton Ruby and Tove Reece, a local animal rights activist, filed a lawsuit on behalf of PETA and Zoocheck against the City of Edmonton. In this lawsuit, they claimed that the City of Edmonton kept Lucy in conditions which caused her to be in distress, which would put them in violation of Alberta's Animal Protection Act. The lawsuit was dismissed by an Alberta judge on August 20, 2010.