Animals Asia, an animal rights group headquartered in Hong Kong, is campaigning to shut down an exhibit in a Chinese mall where a polar bear is kept in a tiny enclosure for locals and tourists to gawk at and take selfies with.
According to CBC News, the sad polar bear is being contained in a small concrete display at Grandview Aquarium in the Grandview shopping center in Guangzhou, a city in southeast China that is home to approximately eight million people. The polar bear is noticeably upset, and in one video posted by Animals Asia, he can be seen laying on the floor with his cheek pressed against the concrete. In a separate video, people can be seen holding their phones up while attempting to get the polar bear’s attention so they can snap a photo.
Tragically sad polar bear on display in mall – https://t.co/QV3Wmr7sFS
— Peter Lombard (@tutticontenti) July 19, 2016
“Trapped in the middle of a shopping centre in China – his white fur contrasting against the unnaturally blue display he is an unwilling part of – this sad polar bear has no escape,” Dave Neale, Animals Asia’s animal welfare director, wrote in a blog post titled “The tragic polar bear that suffers for selfies” in March.
“Nowhere to hide from people taking photos – banging on the windows and shouting. Nothing natural, no attempt to create an environment that would meet the needs of any living bear – never mind this vast magnificent animal.”
Since the animal rights group posted the videos, nearly 300,000 people have signed a petition requesting the Grandview Aquarium, which has been dubbed the “world’s saddest zoo,” be shut down. The facility also houses six young beluga whales, five walrus calves, a wolf, another polar bear, and arctic foxes.
According to Animals Asia’s website, the organization was founded in 1998, and it “promotes compassion and respect for all animals and works to bring about long-term change.” The group has bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam, and since their inception, they have rescued over 500 bears. They also work tirelessly to try and stop the trade in dogs and cats for food in China and Vietnam while attempting to “improve the welfare of companion animals, promote humane population management and prevent the cross border export of “meat dogs” in Asia.”
“This bear has no peace and nothing natural to take comfort in. What’s more information on how best to try to meet the complex physical and behavioural needs of captive polar bears is freely available and yet this animal has been willfully incarcerated in this way,” Neale wrote after explaining that polar bears need large amounts of space to walk, run, climb and hunt.
After the blog post, petition, and videos were shared, the Grandview Aquarium staff invited the group to visit the zoo and tour the facilities. Neale said they had already noticed some improvements in the polar bears care, and added that they would continue to provide recommendations on how to properly care for the polar bears and other animals in order to enrich their lives.
So sad what we are capable of doing to animals.
‘Tragic’ polar bear kept ‘for selfies,’ group says https://t.co/ON5Lzv7tAM
— Greg Gagnaux (@ggagnaux) July 19, 2016
“The day after our visit, following our basic recommendations, the bear keeper provided piles of snow for the bears and is now starting a program of enrichment,” Neale said. “Because the sad truth is, in this instance, we can’t immediately shut down Grandview. And they are unlikely to free this bear, or any of the other animals they house, at least not in the short-term.”
Despite the attention Animals Asia has brought to the sad polar bear, Neale lamented the captive animals fate. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t appeared to limit visitor numbers.”
[Photo via Shutterstock]