A severely depressed polar bear in Argentina seems destined to stay that way after Argentinian authorities rejected the global petition to relocate him to a better environment in Canada. Addressed to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, it had received well over 619,000 signatures. Following the news, celebrities and public figures took to Twitter on Wednesday to offer their support for what some have dubbed the “world’s saddest animal.”
Concern for the 28-year-old bear began over a year ago when zoo-goers began recognizing signs of severe depression and stress in the animal—the country’s last remaining captive polar bear. Pictures and videos of the animal show him swaying nervously, crying in pain, and lying flat on the concrete.
Experts say the depression stems from his unnaturally hot environment, lack of adequate water to cool off in, and the absence of other polar bears at the Mendoza Zoo. Arturo’s lover, a polar bear named Pelusa, succombed to complications from cancer in 2012. He has not seen another polar bear since.
Maria Ferensten Arentsen, the Argentinian woman who first reached out to Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Canada, talked to CBC news about his plight in April. “[Arturo] looks so sad. He really looks in pain,” she said. “The weather, the conditions, you can imagine it—a polar bear in a desert, with a swimming pool 50 centimetres deep.” CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, Bill McDonald, told CBC that videos of Arturo swaying side to side are alarming. “This bear is doing what’s called stereotypy…it’s basically going insane,” he said.
The Change.org petition, launched by Canadian Laura Morales, quickly gained steam last week as U.S. public figures from Newt Gingrich to Olivia Munn began spreading it on social media. “We plead that you exercise your authority so the polar bear Arturo, who lives in deplorable conditions in the Mendoza Zoo is moved to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada where a better life is awaiting him,” the petition reads.
The Canadian zoo, which offered to take Arturo over a year ago, features a new multimillion-dollar International Polar Bear Conservation Centre where he would be able to live in a cool environment with other bears. In a statement to CBC news, the zoo’s director explained that the Mendoza Zoo had officially rejected their offer this week—claiming that Arturo is too old to move.
Despite the Mendoza Zoo’s decision, the global push to save Arturo has not wavered. More celebrities took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to express their concern, and ask that the decision be reconsidered. At the time of publishing, the petition had received over 619,000 signatures worldwide.
Change.org communications director Shareeza Bhola tells The Daily Beast that the push to save Arturo is the second-fastest-growing petition on the website globally. In the past 24 hours alone, more than 60,000 have signed it.