Activists in Argentina are fighting to improve the living conditions of Arturo, the country's last living polar bear. The 29-year-old animal lives at the Mendoza Zoo and has been the focus of a heated debate between activists and zoo officials regarding his mental and physical health.
The New York Daily News reported Arturo’s companion died in 2012. As a result of his pal's death and the extremely warm temperatures he encounters at his zoo, experts say Arturo has become depressed and is showing signs of mental stress.
The Daily News said the bear does not interact with any other bears and his access to water pools is limited.
"He methodically does the same thing over and over and over and over," Bill McDonald, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, told CBC News. "And it's really an indication that he's going slowly insane.
Others have raised issues about the overall inadequacy of the bear’s zoo habitat.
"Arturo is in a small cage, with no space to walk, he has no stimulation, and the weather is awful for a polar bear," said Maria Fernanda Arentsen. Arentsen is a Canadian professor who was at the forefront of a movement trying to get the bear moved to another zoo
Activists on Twitter have started a “Free Arturo” petition online. They are requesting Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner support the relocation of Arturo to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada.
In February the Assiniboine Park Conservatory attempted to have the bear relocated to its facilities in Winnipeg, Canada. But Argentina rejected the offer, claiming Arturo was too old to undergo the numerous hours of anesthesia the trip would require. Many experts, however, say the move would likely be worth the risks.
A Canadian law that requires zoo animals to have three years of medical records would have also kept Arturo from moving to Canada since Mendoza Zoo lacked the required documentation.