Po­lar bear draws word­wide out­cry

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

A GLOBAL cam­paign to free the world’s “sad­dest po­lar bear” from a Chi­nese shop­ping cen­tre has gath­ered 1 mil­lion sig­na­tures, rights groups said, as a new video of the wretched-look­ing crea­ture sparked fresh out­rage.

The bear named Pizza is one of 500 species kept in a zoo in­side the mall in the south­ern Chi­nese city of Guangzhou and ac­tivists have been lob­by­ing for the an­i­mals to be re­homed and the ex­hi­bi­tion closed.

Let­ters signed by 50 Chi­nese an­i­mal rights groups were sent to the gov­er­nor of Guang­dong prov­ince and the shop­ping cen­tre this week call­ing for the zoo’s clo­sure on the grounds it is il­le­gal.

An­i­mals, in­clud­ing an Arc­tic fox, wolf and wal­rus, are kept in “small rooms with no win­dow and en­vi­ron­men­tal en­rich­ment”, said a copy of the let­ter sent to Gov­er­nor Zhu Xiao­dan and seen by AFP.

“Such con­di­tions are far from their nat­u­ral habi­tat and would cause in­evitable harm to their men­tal and phys­i­cal health.”

Two pe­ti­tions that had gath­ered a to­tal of 1 mil­lion sig­na­tures from around the world were also sent to Zhu.

Qin Xiaona, di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing-based Cap­i­tal An­i­mal Welfare As­so­ci­a­tion and one of the sig­na­to­ries of the let­ters, told AFP on Fri­day they were still wait­ing for a re­sponse.

The gen­eral man­ager of the atrac­tion, a man sur­named Fan, de­clined to im­me­di­ately com­ment when AFP con­tacted him by tele­phone on Fri­day.

Fan said pre­vi­ously that the zoo was “legally com­pli­ant” but pledged to “strengthen the pro­tec­tion of an­i­mal rights and welfare”.

But a video re­leased by Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional this week shows Pizza pac­ing around his glass-fronted en­clo­sure mea­sur­ing 40 square me­tres (430 square feet) and shak­ing his head as on­look­ers take pho­tos on their cell phones.

At one point the for­lorn-look­ing bear lies on the floor in front of an air vent, which HSI di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional me­dia Wendy Hig­gins told AFP sug­gested he was try­ing to get a “rush of fresh air”.

Pizza’s be­hav­iour – head sway­ing and repet­i­tive pac­ing – had been in­duced by “frus­tra­tion and poor welfare”, pro­fes­sor Alas­tair Macmil­lan, a ve­teri­nary ad­viser to HSI, said af­ter view­ing the footage.

“The con­di­tions in which he is be­ing kept are com­pletely un­suit­able, vastly re­moved from any­thing ap­proach­ing his nat­u­ral habi­tat, and if some­thing is not done then he will likely slip fur­ther and fur­ther into men­tal de­cline,” Macmil­lan said in a state­ment.

An ear­lier of­fer from the York­shire Wildlife Park in Eng­land to adopt Pizza on the con­di­tion that he was not re­placed by an­other po­lar bear was not taken up by the shop­ping mall, which said it had “no need” for for­eign in­ter­fer­ence.

Hig­gins said the Grand­view zoo was part of a trend among Chi­nese re­tail­ers to use an­i­mals to en­tice cus­tomers back to bricks-and­mor­tar stores in­stead of shop­ping on­line.

“Over the past decade there has been a huge cam­paign to build mega-malls in China but the suc­cess of e-com­merce in the coun­try has seen a drop-off in shop­pers go­ing to them,” she said. –

Photo: AFP

Ex­perts say Pizza is clearly dis­tressed based on a re­cent video, and more than a mil­lion peo­ple have pe­ti­tioned to free the sad bear.

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