Unfortunately Tongki's life is not unlike those of many polar bears in zoos around the world.
"Polar bears seem to suffer - by appearance - the most of all the animals in captivity," says Rob Laidlaw, the director of Zoocheck Canada. "I've never encountered a polar bear that doesn't stereotype extensively. I've never seen polar bears in environments that would satisfy their needs. I would say that polar bears, except in exceptional circumstances, shouldn't be in captivity at all."
Laidlaw says the conditions for polar bears are the same in zoos around the globe: barren environments, an inability to escape from heat and an improper diet.
However, Laidaw maintains that the number one problem for polar bears is lack of space. "Polar bears have evolved to live in hundreds to thousands of square kilometers - this is the widest-ranging terrestrial mammal on earth," he says. "You can't say, 'I'm going to take this animal that should live in this space and put it in a compressed space millions of times smaller' and think it could do well."
One zoo that has created a remarkable space compared with so many other zoos is the Detroit Zoo.
"For polar bears, you want the most natural environment you can create," says Ron Kagan, executive director of the Detroit Zoo. Kagan has thought long and hard about the optimal exhibit for a polar bear and the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life is proof of this consideration: At four acres, it is not only the largest polar bear exhibit in the world, but is perhaps the best, due to its emphasis on animal well-being.
Kagan says that, other than the size of the enclosure, many zoos do not provide polar bears appropriate environments within their exhibit space. "Polar bears spend most of their time on land and on ice, not in the water," he says. Zoos often have proportionally more water than land to force bears to spend time in the water, "but that isn't what polar bears do," says Kagan.