​Arturo Polar Bear Still Showing Signs Of Depression

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July 23, 2014

Arturo, a polar bear at the Mendoza Zoo, has been showing signs of stress and depression, which has prompted animal rights activists to move the 28-year-old bear to a wildlife park that specializes in the species.

However, zoo director Gustavo Pronotto said Tuesday that the animal is too elderly to make the nearly 6,000-mile journey. Pronotto said that to make the two-day journey, he would have to be sedated which carries a risk.

“Arturo is close to his caretakers. We just want everyone to stop bothering the bear,” the zoo director said. Pronotto added that the behaviors which others had highlighted as signs that the animal was in distress were merely down to his age. A team of vets in Argentina ruled in February that the bear should remain in the zoo.

Arturo’s plight came to the attention of animal rights advocates, who dubbed him “the world’s saddest” when they launched a petition to call for him to be moved. The polar bear has been alone in his enclosure since his partner, Pelusa, died of cancer in 2012. Visitors to the zoo, and animal experts, had reported seeing him pacing nervously in his concrete enclosure, and appearing to struggle with the high temperatures.

He has been seen tilting his head and showing his teeth while pacing back and forth, and rocking from side to side - all behaviors widely believed to be symptoms of stress.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups argue that it is riskier to keep him at the Mendoza Zoo, where temperatures can reach up to 86F in the summer. The last polar bear to die in Argentina did so during a heatwave in 2012.

Currently, Arturo has only a shallow pool, said to be only 20in deep, to provide cooling water.

But Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, where campaigners wanted the bear moved, has a ten-acre facility that provides as natural an environment as possible. Its $84 million Journey to Churchill exhibit focuses on education and conservation, and the bears living there have more space to roam and a more natural setting. And, when temperatures in Winnipeg get too hot for the arctic creatures, the zoo’s bears have access to a deep, rocky pool.

The Sea Ice Passage is 21 metres long, 3 metres wide and 2.5 metres deep and visitors can watch them through a tunnel that goes underneath the exhibit.

For this animal, it would have been a chance for him to experience something closer to the wild.

“His current living situation is very sad, and he deserves to be saved,” a statement on the Change petition site said. The petition called on Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, to give her approval for the animal to be moved from the zoo. The campaign has quickly gathered in momentum, with more than half a million supporters signing the petition by Tuesday.

It has also been given support by U.S. politicians, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who highlighted the case on his Facebook page. “If you love animals the way I do, please sign the petition to help the Argentinian polar bear, Arturo,” Gingrich wrote.

Should the bear be removed from the zoo?