Guangzhou mall rejects offer to transfer polar bear to UK zoo

September 21, 2016 11:30
Pizza, dubbed "the world's saddest bear", lives in a small, prison-like room without windows at the Grandview shopping center in Guangzhou. Photo: Animals Asia

A shopping mall in Guangdong province, which raised an international outcry for keeping a polar bear in its facility allegedly in miserable conditions, has turned down an offer by a British zoo to give a new home to the arctic mammal.

A petition to remove the bear, named Pizza, from its current location at the Grandview shopping center in Guangzhou gained more than half a million signatures in a campaign launched by animal rights group Animals Asia, The Independent reports.

Photos published online by the Hong Kong-based group show Pizza living in a small, prison-like room without windows, looking distressed as tourists gathered around to take pictures.

The campaign gained traction after various media outlets such as CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera reported Pizza's plight, dubbing it “the world’s saddest bear”.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster, England, confirmed it was willing to take care of the bear.

The park maintains a facility established specifically to host polar bears and currently has four of the animals living there, The Independent said.

The park covers 10 acres of land and two lakes – the largest lake is over eight meters deep allowing bears to dive as they would in the wild.

However, Grandview's management said the zoo had not made any formal request. It insisted there was "no need for foreign organizations to get involved”.

"We are a legally compliant aquarium, run according to Chinese standards and protecting animal rights. In the future we will strengthen the protection of animal rights and welfare," the facility's general manager identified only as Fan told Agence France-Presse.

Animals Asia is confident that it can raise funds to relocate Pizza to Doncaster, which is a 10,000-kilometer journey, if only Grandview accepts the offer.

“The good news now for Grandview is that they now have the chance to put their mistake right," the charity group's welfare director Dave Neale said.

"Thanks to this incredible offer from Yorkshire Wildlife Park there can be a happy ending and the negative publicity they have suffered can yet be turned into a positive news story.

"From talking to them I know they know that mistakes have been made in terms of their animal facilities and ongoing care."

The park's offer is being made on the condition that Grandview will not replace Pizza with another polar bear or any similar-sized animal.

It has not offered any payment for Pizza's transfer, fearing that "any funds could be used to buy more animals".

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Guangzhou mall zoo faces boycott calls due to polar bear plight (June 15, 2016)

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