Polar Bears International

7/22/2014 6:31:59 PM

Help for Arturo

We have heard from a number of concerned people from around the world asking what can be done to help Arturo, a polar bear living at the Mendoza Zoo in Argentina. Although we have not seen Arturo's exhibit first-hand, photos suggest his living conditions may be woefully substandard.

"It's wrenching to view images of Arturo compared with photos of polar bears in the wild or in exhibits that meet or exceed AZA standards," says Krista Wright, PBI's executive director. "At the same time, there's no easy answer. The situation is extremely challenging due to the complexities of trying to work across borders."

Polar Bears International is a conservation group focused on saving wild polar bears and their arctic ecosystem. But we also work on well-being issues related to polar bears in zoos and aquariums, including funding studies related to their physical and emotional health.*

Our colleagues in the zoo and aquarium world have the knowledge and skill to assess Arturo's situation and recommend the best course of action. But without permission from the government of Argentina or the Mendoza Zoo, their hands are tied.

At one point, it looked as though Arturo would be able to find a new home in Canada. The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, located in Winnipeg, offered to take Arturo and the zoo in Argentina finally agreed. But the whole process unraveled when it turned out the Mendoza Zoo didn't have the necessary medical records, which are required by Canadian law. Further complicating matters, Arturo's age and poor health may make him a risky candidate for sedation and transport.

So what can be done? Arturo's best hope may be for a team of zoo professionals to evaluate his health, assess his living conditions, and make suggestions on the options for improving his situation. But even that is not easy. The Mendoza Zoo must agree to accept outside help before any such technical assistance can be arranged.

The International Polar Bear Conservation Center, for example, has a standing offer to send an expert team to the Mendoza Zoo to help Arturo—and we stand willing to help fund such an effort. But, so far, the Mendoza Zoo has not agreed to the visit.

Due to the large volume of mail we are receiving on this subject, we are unable to respond to individual messages. But rest assured we are aware of Arturo's plight and are working with colleagues in the zoo and aquarium world to see what might be done.

*PBI primarily partners with zoos and aquariums to support their education programs on polar bears and to increase our communications reach. We also see a link between polar bears in captivity and what they can help us learn about polar bears in the wild, as some research questions are better answered in a zoo setting. In addition, we work with partners to help upgrade and standardize baseline requirements for captive polar bears from enclosures to nutrition to staff training. Learn more about our position on polar bears in zoos

For information on how you can help wild polar bears, visit Tips from Scientists on How You Can Help.

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