'Taco', the polar bear in Chile’s National Zoo is free at last

Posted Apr 18, 2015 by Igor I. Solar
After 16 years of captivity in Chile's National Zoo, Taco the polar bear died. During his confinement the animal endured summer temperatures that often reached 36 C in Santiago, the Chilean capital. Years of protests did not achieve Taco's freedom.
Taco  the polar bear of Santiago de Chile s National Zoo
Taco, the polar bear of Santiago de Chile's National Zoo
Minvu, Gov't of Chile
On Friday 17, 'Taco' the polar bear, a forced resident of the National Zoo located within the Metropolitan Park of Santiago de Chile, died aged 18. The MINVU (Ministry of Housing and Urban Development) the agency controlling the operation of the zoo issued yesterday the following brief statement:
"We regret the death of Taco the polar bear who lived in the National Zoo in Santiago’s Metropolitan Park. Taco was born on December 10, 1996 in the Rotterdam Zoo of The Netherlands and he was donated to Chile’s National Zoo through a partnership between the two institutions.”
During the period of captivity in the Santiago Zoo, Taco received the continuous defense of animal groups, especially during summers. Taco advocates opposed the reduced space allocated by the National Zoo to the great polar bear and the null mitigation measures taken by the zoo to alleviate the exposure of the bear to the high temperatures recorded in the Chilean capital in summer which can reach levels above 30°C for extended periods.
At one point an 11-year-old girl, after witnessing the dismal living conditions of Taco at the zoo, started a petition in asking the zoo administrators to allow the transfer of Taco to a Polar Bear Reserve in Canada, closer to home.
The life expectancy of a polar bear in the wild is 25-30 years. In captivity, under appropriate conditions, similar to those in their natural environment, the life expectancy of a polar bear could be higher since they do not face periods of starvation or are exposed to diseases.
The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) lives throughout the ice-covered waters of the circumpolar Arctic. Their natural range in the wild is limited by the southern extent of sea ice. They are well adapted for cold temperatures and for extensive migrations across snow, ice, and open water. They spend most of their time at sea and are excellent long distance swimmers. The polar bear is an efficient predator that hunts its preferred food of Arctic seals from the edge of sea ice. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the polar bear is considered “Vulnerable.”
Jumping Polar Bear in its natural environment  in Spitsbergen Island  Svalbard  Norway.
Jumping Polar Bear in its natural environment, in Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, Norway.
Arturo de Frias Marques
According to the New York Times, animal rights advocates and veterinarians have described the Santiago zoo as one of the worst in Latin America. In recent years lions escaped from their enclosures, and many animals have died under questionable circumstances. In 1995, four giraffes burned to death in a fire supposedly caused by faulty electrical wiring in the cages. In other incidents, 12 deer died of shock while being vaccinated by a zoo veterinarian, and an African elephant died after several operations to remove plastic bags, nails and other items from its stomach. In 2012 a white tiger escaped from its cage and had to be killed after it attacked a zoo employee..