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Activists push for Argentina polar bear to go to Canada

BUENOS AIRES --- Arturo has been in mourning since the death of his companion in 2012. It is summer now in Argentina, and he is exhausted from the heat. A trip to cool Canada might brighten his mood.

Such is life for an aging, depressed polar bear at a zoo in Mendoza, at the foot of the Andes in western Argentina.

On Friday, veterinarians from Canada, Chile and Argentina will determine if the 29-year-old animal is in shape to endure the long trip to Canada, where a zoo in Winnipeg has offered to adopt him.

In Mendoza and elsewhere in Argentina, no one is indifferent to the fate of the 400-kilo bear.

People still remember the tragic death of another polar bear, 16-year-old Winner, who passed away at the Buenos Aires zoo during Christmas 2012 as temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius.

Over the past 20 years, Arturo has grown accustomed to the hot summers and mild winters of Mendoza. The question now is whether he can handle Canada's frosty winter.

Born in the United States in 1985, Arturo arrived in 1993 in Mendoza, a city of 120,000 known for its wine production.

“Despite his age, he is good condition,” said zoo director Gustavo Pronotto. He said the life expectancy of a polar bear is just over 20 years and that in captivity, they can often live to see age 30.

Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg has proposed paying for the transport costs.

Greenpeace has gathered 160,000 signatures in a campaign to transfer Arturo urgently to Canada, which it says has weather that more closely resembles what occurs in his natural habitat.

Canada is home to 60 percent of the world's 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears, which are concentrated in the Arctic — including Russia, the United States (Alaska), Norway and the Danish territory of Greenland.

Classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the planet's largest land-based predator.

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Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina, is pictured at his enclosure at a zoo in Mendoza, 1,050 kilometers west of Buenos Aires, Argentina on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Specialists and activists are lobbying to transfer the elderly Arturo to a zoo in Canada to spare him from the Argentine heat. (AFP)

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