A petition has been signed by nearly 300,000 people to move a 29-year-old polar bear that has been living in “deplorable conditions” in an Argentine zoo to Canada.
The online petition addressed to Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other diplomats pledged that Arturo, who has been reportedly nicknamed as “the World’s Saddest Animal,” should be sent to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada, where he can have a natural habitat and suitable living conditions.
Arturo, who is currently living in the Mendoza Zoo in Mendoza, Argentina, has been reportedly showing behavior that experts say is symptomatic of depression.
Earlier this year, the director of the Mendoza Zoo said, according to BBC, that it was unsafe to transfer the polar bear due to his age. Arturo has been living in the zoo for the past 20 years and has been alone in the concrete enclosure after Pelusa, who reportedly resided with him, died in 2012 due to living in similar conditions.
Animal rights groups have reportedly expressed their concerns over Arturo’s situation. According to the online petition, the polar bear care manual of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums states that "great care should be taken to monitor the interaction between high temperatures and high humidity.”
"Techniques to raise or lower humidity within indoor and outdoor exhibits include .... pools in which the bears can swim," the petition stated, adding that Arturo has not been able to swim for 28 years.
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy said in a statement on Friday that it had contacted the government of Mendoza Province about Arturo in 2013 to discuss moving him to Canada, according to a local news outlet.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reportedly requires a three-year complete medical record for any animal coming into the country, which the Mendoza Zoo cannot provide.
On Wednesday, former U.S. representative Newt Gingrich used Facebook to urge people to sign the petition.
“If you love animals the way I do, please sign the petition to help the Argentinian polar bear, Arturo. His current living situation is very sad, and he deserves to be saved. #freearturo,” he wrote.
A video had been released in February showing the bear at the Mendoza Zoo.