The mental health of polar bears…

This week’s animal news star is Tami the elephant, the last of her species in captivity in Argentina, who will soon be moved to a nature reserve in Brazil. Experts are preparing her for a journey that will reunite her with her peers Pocha and Guilhermina, who also lived in the Mendoza Ecopark (always Mendoza with their conservation leanings). What they don’t explain is why, once they got into trouble, they don’t bring her back directly to India, her country of origin, where perhaps she could practice the old trade of executioner, crushing heads and thus taking revenge on her fellows- villains to death. get them out of ivory and make piano keyboards.


There is nothing more to say about Tami, except to wish her a safe journey and ask her to send Garotos. Actually, today’s column will be devoted to another animal friend whom the chronicler was able to visit in his captivity in the Central Park Zoo in New York. We are talking about the polar bear Gus, a real celebrity, who, unfortunately, left us about ten years ago. He was fascinated by a thyroid tumor, but reached the age of 27, far exceeding the average lifespan of these creatures outside of their natural habitat.

In fact, Gus himself was born at the Toledo, Ohio Zoo, so he never knew anything but the Truman Show, which is the world’s zoos, where the guilty pleasure of being in close proximity to these formidable beasts makes us eat away at the brain thinking about how we treat our animal cousins.

At least Gus didn’t end up in a stew like the cows, pigs, and chickens we raise for food. It is estimated that there are about 940 million cows in the world, and some say that this “association” of this species with humans has led to the true “success” of cattle, since in the Darwinian system there are those that grow and reproduce, and those die out.


In those nineties, the polar bear at the New York Zoo became notorious for his obsessive behavior: he spent up to twelve hours every day swimming in his aquarium, always making the same circle and drawing a figure eight with his march. It was a majestic, awe inspiring sight until you realized you were witnessing a symptom of stress or some more serious mental health issue.

They did case studies and found that Gus was rather bored and had a mild neurosis. He lived in Manhattan, after all, so he didn’t look out of place for the average city dweller. The solution they found was primarily to treat him with Prozac, the antidepressant that was in vogue at the time. And to make up for it even more, they installed a hot tub for him, bought him new toys, and changed his diet, giving him tasks to relieve his boredom.

The patient’s condition improved significantly and he led a fairly tolerable life until his partner Ida died in 2011, which plunged him into a depression from which he never recovered. Apparently, he was very attached to the boss.


Also, do not romanticize these animals. As clearly seen in Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog, a director obsessed with exploring the limits of human adventure, bears are quite capable of killing and eating Christians. Such was the fate of the film’s protagonist Timothy Treadwell, a somewhat demented environmentalist who actually chose to live in Alaska, next to a colony of grizzly bears, precisely in order to denounce the disappearance of their natural habitat and promote its conservation. Somehow he did it, at least one bear, he gave a juicy dinner.

Bears do not seem to know the golden mean. Either they are in pleasant mode, or at any moment they turn into bloodthirsty psychopaths. They should be called not only “polar”, but also “bipolar”.

Rumor has it that polar bears are able to swallow an entire igloo with all its inhabitants in a matter of minutes. It seems that for them it is a delicacy, something exquisite: crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

Either way, Gus never had the need to show his killer side. On the contrary, he earned the sympathy of the twenty million visitors who passed through the Zoo during his lifetime. Books were written in his honor, he was immortalized in documentaries and in songs.

But did we really know him? What were we able to learn from him, even after $25,000 was paid to the “expert” who studied him on his couch? Perhaps, with that graceful dance to which he was so devoted, he was trying to tell us something, but we, of course, did not pay attention to him. Maybe he did not draw a figure eight, but an infinity sign, which is similar to a lying figure eight.


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