Arturo The Polar Bear had died at the age of 30 in Argentina, the Mendoza zoo says. A team was watching the bear and considered putting him to sleep in the case of extreme suffering but, according to the zoo, “nature took its course.”
Arturo, as he was known, came to the world’s attention two years ago, when thousands of people signed a petition asking for him to be transferred to a colder climate in Canada, the Washington Post reports. But the request was denied, as officials at the Mendoza zoo said he was “too old” to be sedated and moved.
His partner Pelusa died of cancer in 2012, and he was said to have developed depression after that. A “blood circulation imbalance” caused a general decline in his health and Arturo the polar bear died on Sunday, the zoo said.
Visitors reported the bear pacing up and down inside his concrete enclosure, rocking from side to side, displaying his teeth and other signs of discomfort as temperatures would rise above 104 degrees.
His pool of water was only 20 inches deep, and zoo staff threw blocks of ice in the water to keep it cool.
He was already weak due to old age, they added, with failing eyesight and sense of smell. He was blind on his right eye. In his last days, he suffered loss of appetite and was said to have lost significant weight.
Arturo was brought from the US at the age of eight, and was close to turning 31. He lived all his life in the zoo in Mendoza, local media said, a city where temperatures can climb above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Environmental groups including Greenpeace had argued that it was risky to keep polar bears in such a climate, and started a movement to get him out. But officials also said he was “close to his caretakers” and ruled out his transfer, the New York Daily News reported.
“His current living situation is very sad, and he deserves to be saved,” a statement on the Change petition site said two years ago.
“You can see he is going crazy. He moves the way polar bears do when they are suffering a lot of stress,” Argentinian professor Fernanda Arentsen, from the University de Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg, told the Winnipeg Free Press in 2013.
“He has been filmed rocking back and forth in a way that signals distress. It breaks my heart to see it. I’m from Mendoza. I know how hot summer is. There is no way for him to escape the heat.”
He was described as the last polar bear in Argentina, after Winner, who lived in the capital Buenos Aires, died in 2012 during a heat wave. Polar bears rarely live beyond 25 years.
The Mendoza zoo was closed to visitors last month after more than 60 animals died between December and May. Officials said outbreaks of bacteria and overcrowding were to blame. Authorities said they wanted to convert it into an ecological park.
The Daily Mail said Arturo the Polar Bear was born in the US in 1985. The 900lb bear arrived in Mendoza in 1993. He was served 33lb of meat per day, as well as fruit, vegetables and honey. He had no contact with other bears for the last four years of his life.