Arturo the polar bear’s horrifying living conditions have received massive attention. His story went viral on the internet with people sharing on Twitter under #Arturo or, #OsoArturo in South America, prompting celebrities like Cher, Olivia Munn and even Newt Gingrich to rally his cause. Nearly three quarters of a million people have signed the change.org petition urging he be removed from the Mendoza Zoo in Argentina and many others have donated money to further that end.
Unfortunately, even with the preponderance of evidence and public outcry pointing toward the desperate need for Arturo’s release, Mendoza Zoo’s director, Gustavo Pronotto, is refusing to give him up. Citing a panel decision by internal veterinarians back in February, the zoo’s stance is that Arturo’s abnormal behaviors are merely the result of old age and that moving him would be far riskier than leaving him where he is due to his advanced age and health.
To say this seems suspicious is an understatement. With no medical records available for Arturo for the last three years, Mendoza is asking the public to take their word for it that Arturo isn’t healthy enough to be moved…despite the underlying concern that it is his inappropriate environment that is making him ill. Zoos rely on admission for more than 50% of their revenue, so naturally, they are usually loathe to give up an animal, especially an exotic animal like a polar bear in a sub-tropical country. It’s not about the animal’s well being. It’s about their bottom line.
Moreover, Bill McDonald, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, disagrees with the zoo that Arturo’s behaviors are age related. Arturo has barely enough space to walk in his enclosure and with temperatures that can reach 104°F, his rocking, head tilting, pacing and teeth baring all point to an unraveling mental state (or zoochosis), not age. “This bear is doing what’s called stereotyping or stereotypy movements.” McDonald said. “It’s basically going insane.”
Activists, animal lovers and environmental groups such as OIKOS– Red Ambiental located in Mendoza are continuing to fight for Arturo. Greenpeace Argentina is urging people who want to see Arturo moved to sign their petition, putting pressure on the Governor of Mendoza, Francisco Paco Pérez, to have a polar bear specialist, independent of the zoo, evaluate Arturo.
Continuing to spread the word about Arturo will keep the pressure on as well, giving a voice to this bear who still so desperately needs it!
Image source: ABC Local