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, closing only 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 lemurhabitat, 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's 2005 Master Plan was approved by Edmonton City Council, allocating $50 million in capital funding. With the first project, Arctic Shores completed, the second phase, The Wander Trail, is planned for a 2013 opening.
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 ted-fronted lemurs.
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.It is also home to the reptile and nocturnal wing, and many of the zoo's smaller animals.
The residence of Lucy the elephant at the Valley Zoo has been a source of controversy since 2009. Animal welfare groups such as Zoocheck opposed on keeping a lone elephant in a zoo, since elephants are a highly social species, and that Edmonton's cold climate is unhealthy for elephants. Lucy exhibits psychological health issues, including lethargy and abnormal stereotypical behaviours, such as rocking back and forth.
A number of North American zoos have phased out elephants, including the Toronto zoo when it moved three elephants in October 2013 to the United States.[better source needed]
The Edmonton Valley Zoo, for its part, argues that moving Lucy would be detrimental to her health, although officials have not disclosed the nature of her health issue. In 2013 and 2014, activists are challenging the zoo to substantiate this claim, and a petition is being circulated to have Lucy examined by an expert.
Retired game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker has also advocated for Lucy's transfer.