CHINA — The “world’s saddest” polar bear could have a new home if a British zoo gets its way.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park has asked Guangzhou’s Grandview Aquarium to let them move Pizza, as he is known, to their specially designed polar bear habitat.
The offer comes after pressure group Animals Asia collected over half a million signatures in a petition demanding the closure of the aquarium.
“The good news now for Grandview is that they now have the chance to put their mistake right,” Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director for Animals Asia, said in a statement.
“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 on-going care.”
World’s worst zoo?
Grandview has been the subject of numerous critical stories both in the Chinese and international press, and is currently being investigated by the Guangzhou Ocean and Fishery Bureau over animal deaths, according to the state-run Global Times.
Speaking to the official People’s Daily, Zhang Xiaohai, executive secretary of the Beijing-based Ta Foundation, denounced Pizza’s conditions — he lives in an aquarium of less than 40 square meters, with only a shallow pool of water and constant visitors taking photos and tapping on the glass — as “inhumane.”
Grandview deputy manager Li Chengtang told state media it was “hard to judge the appropriateness of the living space since China doesn’t have regulations about such things.”
Jason Baker, vice president for PETA Asia, which has also campaigned for Pizza’s release, told CNN that “the lack of animal protection laws in China has allowed some of the most deplorable, backwards and decrepit facilities to continue operating.”
“Animals are separated from their homes and families and confined to tiny cages and enclosures. Captivity drives many animals insane, causing them to bar bite, self-mutilate and spend hours a day pacing.”
A spokesman for Grandview told CNN the aquarium had not received the British zoo’s offer.
He added that scientific research and preparation is conducted for all animals to ensure they’re comfortable in the aquarium and accused foreign organizations of “hyping up” Pizza’s situation.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s offer is dependent on Grandview agreeing not to replace Pizza with another polar bear or similar-sized animal, it said in a statement. Nor is any payment being offered for the bear himself, due to fears that “any funds could be used to buy new animals.”
Animals Asia said that costs of transferring the bear will be raised if the offer is accepted, and that the Park has significant experience moving animals across borders.