Activists struggle to get elderly polar bear out of the Argentina heat
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Arturo is a 28-year-old polar bear who lives in a zoo in Mendoza, Argentina. For months, activists have been campaigning to get him out of Mendoza, saying the scorching hot weather is taking a toll on him. A zoo in Canada has even offered to adopt him, but local authorities have swayed back and forth on whether to let him go.
Screen capture from the video below.
Arturo is a 28-year-old polar bear who lives in a zoo in Mendoza, Argentina. Activists have been campaigning to get him out of Mendoza for months, saying the scorching hot weather is taking a toll on him. A zoo in Canada has even offered to adopt him, but local authorities have swayed back and forth on whether to let him go.
According to his keepers, Arturo was born in captivity in the United States. He has spent two decades in Mendoza’s zoo, where he is the only polar bear. Local activists have published multiple videos showing his living conditions online, and petitioned the zoo to let him go to Canada – but despite their continuing efforts, it seems he may not be leaving his pen anytime soon.
This video, filmed by activists, shows Arturo pacing back and forth at Mendoza zoo.
“There is no way for him to escape the heat, which can rise to more than 40 degrees Celsius in Mendoza”
Maria Fernanda Arentsen is originally from Mendoza, Argentina. She works as a university professor in Winnipeg, Canada.
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.
FRANCE 24 contacted Don Peterkin, the director of Winnipeg’s Assinoibe Park Conservancy. He replied with the following statement: “We have left our offer to accept Arturo open but have not had any recent communications with officials in Mendoza. As Arturo is ultimately their responsibility, we have to leave the next step, if any, to their discretion.”
Representatives for the Mendoza zoo did not reply to an interview request by press time; when they respond, we will include their comments here.
This video, filmed by activists, shows several different animals in their pens at Mendoza zoo, including Arturo.