I first heard of Arturo’s plight through friends of mine in Mendoza who are part of environmental groups there. It was clear from their reports and from videos they filmed of Arturo that he was suffering from the terrible heat in Mendoza, which is not suitable for an animal meant to live in much colder temperatures. We became especially worried about his situation after another polar bear kept in a zoo in Buenos Aires died from the effects of the heat
there last year. And that bear lived in much better conditions, in an enclosure with a deep pool and big blocks of ice.
As you can see in the videos, Arturo lives in a concrete enclosure with only a shallow pool. There is no way for him to escape the heat, which can rise to more than 40 degrees Celsius during the summer months in Mendoza. [The polar bear in Buenos Aires, who was 16 years old, died on a day with a high of 36.7 degrees]. He has been filmed rocking back and forth in a way that animal experts say signals distress
. It breaks my heart to see this.
Since I live in an area that is much more suitable for polar bears, I contacted a polar bear conservatory here, which offered to send their experts to evaluate Arturo’s condition and, if he was found fit to travel, take him back to their centre to live out the rest of his life, at no cost to the Mendoza zoo.
At first, Mendoza zoo officials refused, but then changed their minds and invited the conservatory’s experts to come see Arturo in November. However, just days before the scheduled trip – when the Canadian experts had already booked their tickets, packed all their equipment, etc – the invitation was retracted
. [Editor’s Note: The province’s environment minister commented on this decision in a local radio interview by saying that the Canadians were “like pirates” who wanted to steal their bear, and alleged that the trip would kill him.] We were all very disappointed by their decision.
“It seems to me that the zoo is putting its pride ahead of Arturo’s well-being”
It seems to me that the Mendoza authorities are putting their pride ahead of Arturo’s well-being – and may not want to lose an attraction that brings revenue to the zoo.
Activists in Mendoza are not giving up the fight, however; they have collected more than 60,000 signatures and presented the petition to the local governor. My fingers are crossed, though I worry that nothing will change as long as the local authorities are in office.