by Amy Goodrich
More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for the closure of Grandview Aquarium, located in a shopping mall in Guangzhou, China.
It is the home of a lethargic bear, whose name is Pizza, and who has been dubbed “the world’s saddest polar bear” after a horrifying video broke the hearts of many animal lovers across the world.
Trapped in a tiny, barren, dimly-lit enclosure, the bear, among other marine and arctic animals, is suffering so that shoppers can take selfies with her.
The petition was set up earlier this year by the Hong Kong-based animal rights charity Animals Asia, after the aquarium opened its doors in January 2016. Almost immediately after the opening the aquarium made international headlines as “one of the saddest zoos in the world,” the “worst zoo,” and a horrifying animal “prison.”
Despite the international criticism and a massive petition to free the animals, the facility remains open. Dave Neale, Animal Asia’s animal welfare director, doesn’t believe the zoo will shut its doors anytime soon, but hopes that continued pressure will lead to “positive changes,” and improve the well-being of the animals.
Animals are suffering for selfies
Both the UK’s Mail Online and Animals Asia were allowed to visit Pizza at the Grandview Aquarium. Their footage and pictures show the sad story of a bored, trapped animal, banging her head on the walls, while queues of selfie-snapping tourists and citizens happily walk by.
With no place to hide, the constant flashing of the cameras and thumping on the glass panels to draw her attention must be maddening.
When Mail Online visited the Grandview Aquarium, Pizza repeatedly thumped her paws against a metal door and chucked ice lumps about with her mouth before falling asleep in a dark corner.
According to Dave Neale, polar bears need massive amounts of space and attention when kept in captivity. They need to be able to walk, swim, run, climb and hunt. Neale said that the list of their needs is simply too long; what they actually need is to be free in the wild.
He further noted that, although she has a pool in which to swim, the enclosure is too small to satisfy her physical and behavioral needs. Pizza was born in captivity, and there is no chance of her going back to the wild, but she deserves a better life in a facility that can provide for her needs.
The bear is just one of the animals trapped in the middle of a shopping center in Guangzhou. In addition to two polar bears, it also houses six young belugas, five walrus calves, a wolf and arctic foxes in the same horrific conditions.
Allegations of poor conditions and reports of animals dying or being injured has prompted an investigation by the Guangzhou Ocean and Fishery Bureau.
As reported by The Guardian, the center’s management rejects all claims of the animals being mistreated or living in unbearable circumstances. According to Li Chengtang, the deputy manager, “The polar bear in the aquarium is very happy.”
On the bright side, while denying that the animals are being kept in poor conditions, Chengtang admitted that Animals Asia’s attention has set in motion plans to give the facilities a boost and come up with a polar bear enrichment plan to improve the quality of Pizza’s life.
Nonetheless, enlarging the facility is not included in the proposed upgrade.
Animals Asia said that it is unlikely that the animals will be rehoused shortly, but it will continue to fight to improve conditions for all the animals in the aquarium.
“The sad truth is, in this instance, we can’t immediately shut down Grandview. And they are unlikely to free this bear, or any of the other animals they house, at least not in the short-term,” Neale admitted. He added: “If our experience has taught us anything – first you open doors, then you open cages.”
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