It’s no secret that life at a tropical zoo can be agonizing for polar bears. Much like the famously depressed polar bear Arturo, who lived at a zoo in Argentina until his death in 2016, Tongki often exhibited patterns of repetitive movements, known as stereotypic behavior, that stemmed from the stress of living at a zoo. He would regularly stand nearly motionless in his shallow pool, as throngs of tourists gawked and took photos of him.
“Korean summers are hot and humid, and they are true torture for Tongki,” advocates wrote in an online petition. “Polar bears do not have any physiological means of staying cool (such as sweat glands). Captive polar bears are often seen mimicking the same behaviour methods that dogs do in order to cool down, such as slobbering tongues and panting.”