Polar bear gets shopping mall reprieve

By WILLIAM HENNELLY in New York | | Updated: 2016-11-14 05:22

Polar bear gets shopping mall reprieve

Pizza the polar bear will be leaving this mall enclosure for an ocean park in North China. The news comes on the heels of a campaign by animal-rights activists to have him released. MAI ZI / VSHINE

Pizza the polar bear will be delivered to an ocean park in North China after an impassioned global campaign to release him from a shopping mall enclosure in Guangzhou.

The Humane Society International (HSI), which led the effort to set free "the world's saddest polar bear" from the confines of an aquarium at the Grandview Shopping Mall in South China's Guangdong province, announced the news in a release on Sunday.

The location of Pizza's new home hasn't been disclosed, but apparently the bear will be reunited with his parents.

The mall, which has maintained that Pizza is well adjusted and well fed, posted its decision on Weibo. Following is the English translation:

"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. He will return to the embrace of his 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 prince and at the request of the visitors, we shall hold a great and special farewell party for him 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."

Qin Xiaona, director of the Beijing Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA), 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 he never again has to endure the dreadful life in a shopping mall.

Pizza has some company at the mall, such as penguins and arctic foxes and wolves.

"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," Qin said.

HSI and CAWA are calling for Pizza's move to be permanent.

Peter Li, HSI's China policy specialist, said: "Pizza the polar bear has endured a life of deprivation and suffering in his small, artificial, glass-fronted room at the shopping mall, so the news that he's getting out at last makes me very happy and relieved for him. … At last he will feel the sun on his fur, sniff fresh air and see the sky above him.

"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, HSI and a Chinese partner group VShine released video footage showing the polar bear exhibiting distress signs such as head swaying and repetitive pacing.

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