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This article was published 23/9/2013 (1370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE last polar bear in captivity in Argentina now has his own Facebook page and plenty of ink in newspapers in the South American country -- enough publicity, in fact, to rally a Winnipeg rescue effort to bring him north to the Assiniboine Park Zoo.
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy confirmed Monday it is sending a team of four experts to Argentina, likely in November, to assess the bear. But they're not promising to bring him here.
He may not be healthy enough to travel north, the conservancy's chief operating officer Don Peterkin said Monday.
'The intent would be to do a thorough veterinary examination. He is an older bear and we have to find out is he well enough (to be relocated)'-- Don Peterkin
Peterkin confirmed an agreement is in place with senior officials in the city of Mendoza to allow four people from the Winnipeg zoo to check on the condition of Arturo the polar bear and determine whethr or not he can be relocated.
The team will include Peterkin, the zoo's chief veterinarian, an animal husbandry expert and a Spanish interpreter.
The aging Arturo, is 28 years old and weighs 635 kilograms. Back in April, the Winnipeg zoo confirmed it had made an offer to take Arturo, but the offer was declined by Mendoza zoo officials.
A distressing YouTube video posted in the spring prompted calls for international intervention. In the 54-second YouTube clip, Arturo is shown pacing forward and backward, swaying side to side, again and again across a small space barely bigger than himself. Sporadically, he mouths at the air, his lip curling back over his teeth.
The behaviour is a sign of an animal crazed by lack of space and heat stress, said Winnipeg Humane Society chief executive officer Bill McDonald in an interview this spring.
The provincial local government in Argentina has thrown its support behind the campaign to relocate the polar bear closer to his native Arctic home.
"We've now agreed to make the visit to Mendoza, probably early in November," Peterkin said. "The intent would be to do a thorough veterinary examination. He is an older bear and we have to find out is he well enough (to be relocated)."
Peterkin said Mendoza's Conservation Minister, Marcos Zandomeni, also wants advice on how to modernize the zoo there.
The Assiniboine Park and the zoo are undergoing a $200-million overhaul with a focus on conservation. That kind of advice is gold to older zoos, the Assiniboine Park Zoo official said.
Meanwhile, Maria Fernanda Arentsen, who was born in Argentina but lives in Winnipeg, has acted as the bear's fairy godmother here, raising public support for a rescue.
She was excited about the latest development.
Reports in Argentina leaked news of the trip over a week ago, saying a team from the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at the Assiniboine Park Zoo was headed to Mendoza to examine the aging polar bear in his enclosure.
If the bear can be relocated it will take months of arrangements, including export and import permits to get the animal here.