An update on Arturo the polar bear in the Mendoza Zoo

Mendoza & National
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By Polar Bears International

Over the past couple of years, hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions requesting that Arturo, an aging polar bear in Argentina, be moved from the Mendoza Zoo to a more modern exhibit in a cooler climate. In photos, the elderly bear—dubbed the world’s saddest polar bear by the press—appeared to be in terrible shape, with a mournful face and a shabby coat.

But without an exam by an expert, it was hard to assess Arturo’s condition and provide guidance on how he might be helped.

Thanks to the efforts Amigos del Oso Polar Arturo (Friends of Arturo the Polar Bear), an animal welfare group based in Argentina, the zoo recently agreed to allow Dr. Don Moore of the Smithsonian Institution to examine Arturo and spend several days observing his diet, care routines, and interactions with his keepers. Moore also assessed recent improvements to Arturo’s exhibit, including a new filtration system for his pool, a shade cloth over the pool area, and air conditioning in two of three dens. The goal was to provide an unbiased assessment of Arturo and provide recommendations on the best course of action.

Moore, an animal behavior expert who evaluates and accredits zoos worldwide for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), found that, despite Arturo’s sad expression (caused by a facial feature and not an indication of his emotional state), the 29-year-old bear is in excellent physical and mental health for his age. (Most polar bears live into their early twenties.) He also found that Arturo has a close bond with his keepers and is acclimated to Mendoza’s climate, where he has lived for 22 years.

Suggested improvements

Arturo’s exhibit is not up to modern standards, but Moore advised against moving him. Moore said that such a move for an elderly bear—away from... (Read More)