Following a global campaign led by Humane Society International and others calling for China’s Grandview Shopping Mall animal exhibits to close, the mall has announced via Weibo that Pizza—dubbed the world’s saddest polar bear—will reportedly be returned to an undisclosed ocean park in North China where she was born, reuniting her with her parents.
HSI and its Chinese animal group partners, Beijing Capital Animal Welfare Association, cautiously welcome the news as a much-needed reprieve for the bear, filmed by HSI in September exhibiting classic signs of mental distress. In a Weibo post monitored by Chinese activists, a statement from the mall said that Pizza will temporarily move while the facility is renovated. However, HSI and CAWA are urging the Mall to make Pizza’s move permanent.
Mdm Qin, director of Capital Animal Welfare Association said: “It’s a good decision, the right decision for Pizza, but it’s not the end. Temporary is not good enough. Now we hope that Grandview will learn from this episode and move Pizza permanently so that she never again has to endure the dreadful life in a shopping mall. We still want to see the aquarium closed once and for all, to see all the animals moved, and we call on the Commerce Ministry to close all shopping mall zoos and aquariums and to prevent these types of zoos from being opened.”
Peter Li, China policy specialist at Humane Society International, said: “Pizza the polar bear has endured a life of deprivation and suffering in her small, artificial, glass-fronted room at the shopping mall, so the news that she’s getting out at last makes me very happy and relieved for her. But we implore the mall to make this a permanent move for Pizza. At last, she will feel the sun on her fur, sniff fresh air and see the sky above her. No amount of renovation could ever make a shopping mall a suitable place for this animal, and to send her back now would be cruel and heartless. We commend the mall for being gracious enough to listen to Chinese and global voices of concern, and hope they will do the right thing for this poor bear who has already been through enough.”
Last month, Humane Society International and its Chinese partner group VShine released disturbing video footage showing the polar bear exhibiting worrying stereotypical behaviors such as head swaying and repetitive pacing, evidence of frustration and mental decline. HSI’s Peter Li worries that Pizza may now be too visibly sick and distressed for public view, and that this is behind the mall’s decision to move her.
Li said: “Our video clearly showed that Pizza was suffering, and we warned the mall that soon her decline would be so apparent that it would be difficult to have her on public display. Without a doubt, the mall has had to act due to tremendous pressure from Chinese and international campaigners, but I fear that Pizza’s poor health is part of the reason too. If that is the case, it even further underlines the need to make sure she never returns to the Grandview Mall.”
CAWA will continue to pursue dialogue with the Grandview regarding the polar bear and the other animals still at the facility.
English translation of the Weibo post:
“Due to upgrading of exhibition halls, as a testament to urban renewal of Guangzhou, a result of the harmonious collaboration between commerce and tourism, and a witness to urban compassion and hearts of love, Pizza, the “bear baby” loved by millions of tourists will say goodbye for a short period of time. She will return to the embrace of her mom and dad. This upgrading of the facility will not however affect the normal operation of the aquarium. To say goodbye to this polar bear princess and at the request of the visitors, we shall hold a great and special farewell party for her on November 13. We shall invite all the fans of Pizza, all the staff members of the Grandview Polar Ocean Park who see Pizza as a family member, and all other experts and people who have passion for the development of ocean parks in China to come to the party and to bear witness to the touching moment at the send-off party.”