Experts nix Canada move for sad Argentine polar bear

Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina, seen in captivity at a zoo in Mendoza, 1,050 km west of Buenos Aires, on February 5, 2
Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina, seen in captivity at a zoo in Mendoza, 1,050 km west of Buenos Aires, on February 5, 2014

A polar bear said to be depressed in Argentina will not move to Canada, after veterinary experts said the trip would be too dangerous to his health.

The fate of Arturo the bear, 29 years old and weighing in at 400 kilograms (900 pounds), has for months been the subject of controversy, as Greenpeace and questioned the animal's living conditions at the Mendoza site.

He is the last in captivity in Argentina, and critics feared the temperatures, particularly in summer when they can soar to between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius (95 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit), were unhealthy for an animal typically found in arctic climates.

Greenpeace had gathered 160,000 signatures in a campaign to transfer Arturo urgently to Canada, where weather more closely matches that of his .

A zoo in Winnipeg, Canada, had offered to adopt him, proposing to also pay the costs of transporting the animal 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) north.

But after experts from Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay considered the case, they decided it was best to leave Arturo in Argentina, his home for the past 20 years.

Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina, seen in captivity at a zoo in Mendoza, 1,050 km west of Buenos Aires, on February 5, 2
Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina, seen in captivity at a zoo in Mendoza, 1,050 km west of Buenos Aires, on February 5, 2014

The experts said on Friday the trip was risky because it would require anesthetizing the aging bear for 24 to 48 hours, and ultimately, "he is fine, in good condition" right where he is.

"This is an animal that is 29 and has exceeded the normal life expectancy of 21 years," said Eduardo Francisco, director of Temaiken, a renowned private zoo in Argentina.

"A significant sedation would seriously compromise, physically, an animal of this age and species," he said.

Experts say Arturo was also deeply saddened by the death in May 2012 of Pelusa, his mate for two decades, at age 30. She had several cubs, but none survived.

"Arturo never emerged from his state of depression," Mendoza zoo director Gustavo Pronotto said.

As the zoo's mascot, he has an air-conditioned, 35-square-meter (375-square-foot) enclosure, a 500-square-meter beach and a swimming pool in which his guards throw blocks of ice to keep it cool.


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© 2014 AFP

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