July 17, 2014 10:17 pm
Updated: July 17, 2014 11:16 pm

Petition wants Argentine polar bear sent to Canada – but can he come?


WATCH ABOVE: Arturo the polar bear is being dubbed the world’s saddest animal. A campaign to bring the elderly bear from the sweltering heat of Argentina to Winnipeg has garnered worldwide attention. Tamara Forlanski reports.

WINNIPEG – An online campaign to have Arturo, an elderly polar bear in Argentina, sent to Winnipeg’s zoo is gaining momentum, but may not be able to spur action.

Arturo has gained worldwide attention after photos and video of him in sweltering heat at Argentina’s Mendoza Zoo have gone viral on the Internet.

An online petition by a Canadian woman has almost 180,000 signatories urging Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to allow Arturo to be sent to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, and a “tweetstorm” – a campaign that will bombard users Twitter users with messages to #saveArturo – was planned for Thursday afternoon.

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The Winnipeg zoo has a new polar bear facility and is home to the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, which some argue make it the best place for Arturo.

READ MORE: Polar bears swim at new Winnipeg zoo exhibit

But the campaign to bring the bear to Winnipeg may be misguided after zoo officials said in February that they couldn’t meet the Canadian import requirements to bring Arturo here.

Medical records dating back a minimum of three years are needed and aren’t available, zoo officials said when they announced they wouldn’t be bringing Arturo to live in the new Journey to Churchill exhibit.

Shortly after that, the Mendoza Zoo said it had assessed Arturo’s condition and determined he wasn’t healthy enough to make the trip to Canada. The Mendoza government accepted the recommendation that he stay in their country, the Assiniboine Park Zoo said Thursday.

The Winnipeg zoo offered to send a veterinarian to help make possible improvements to Arturo’s care and living conditions, but a planned March trip was cancelled at the last minute by Mendoza officials, Assiniboine Park Zoo spokeswoman Laura Cabak said. Winnipeg staff have not been invited to reschedule the trip.

READ MORE: Winnipeg zoo drops pursuit of Argentine polar bear

The campaign to get Arturo out of Argentina has gained traction as photos of the bear lying immobile in the South American country’s heat have circulated widely.

Winnipegger Jerome Rosset went and saw Arturo at the Mendoza Zoo last year, after his condition received media coverage.

“He had a swollen face,” Rosset said. “He looked sick.”

Photos Rosset took show Arturo lying prone in an empty area of his pool. The area with water was small, Rosset said.

“The zoo itself is pathetic,” he said.

A YouTube video shows the bear pacing and waving his head back and forth in a small enclosure at the Mendoza zoo.

WATCH:  Arturo the polar bear pacing in an enclosure

A petition on the website change.org created by a Hamilton woman that urges the president of Argentina to allow Arturo to come to Winnipeg had almost 180,000 signatures on Thursday morning.

Another change.org petition, which asks the Canadian government to issue a special import permit for Arturo, has far fewer signatories, with just over 12,500 having signed by Thursday morning.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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