'Tragic' polar bear kept at Chinese mall 'for selfies,' group says
Animals Asian petitions to close exhibit at Grandview Aquarium in Guangzhou shopping centre
An animal rights group is campaigning to shut down an exhibit in a Chinese mall featuring a lone polar bear in a small indoor enclosure.
Videos captured by Animals Asia show the adult male bear in small concrete display Grandview Aquarium in the Grandview shopping centre in Guangzhou, a city of eight million in southeast China.
In one video, posted by the group on YouTube, the bear lies listlessly with its cheek against the concrete floor, which is painted bright blue, between a background and pool painted the same colour.
In another, visitors tap on a pane of glass to get the bear's attention as they hold up their phones to take pictures.
"This sad polar bear has no escape. 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," said Dave Neale, Animals Asia's animal welfare director in a blog post in March titled "The Tragic Polar Bear That Suffers for Selfies."
"Polar bears require huge amounts of space. Large enough for them to walk, run, climb and hunt. The list of what they need is very long — to a point whereby you can only really answer that what a polar bear really 'needs' is to be free to live life in the wild."
Beluga whales, walrus calves
Since it was posted, close to 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for the closure of the facility, which also houses six young beluga whales, five walrus calves, a wolf and arctic foxes.
The group, headquartered in Hong Kong, was also invited to meet with Grandview Aquarium staff and tour the facilities. In an update posted last week, Neale said they have already seen some results.
"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," he reported.
The group said it will make recommendations for how to improve conditions for both the bear and other animals.
"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. "
Neale added that while his group has drawn a lot of attention to the bear, "unfortunately, it hasn't appeared to limit visitor numbers."