Pressure is mounting on Chinese authorities to release the “world’s saddest polar bear” from a shopping mall as more than one million people back a campaign to free the animal.
Recent footage of Pizza shows him exhibiting “worrying stereotypical behaviours”, such as head swaying and repetitive pacing, Human Society International said.
Polar bears are notorious for reacting poorly in captivity, yet Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster has a specifically-created habitat for polar bears and has offered to take the animal from the Grandview Shopping Mall, in Guangzhou.
It is understood that Chinese officials have blocked the offer.
In addition to calls from international organisations, 50 Chinese animal groups are also urging Guangzhou’s governor, Zhu Xiaodan, to close the aquarium, where around 500 different species are exhibited.
Campaigners are asking that the animals, including arctic foxes, a walrus and beluga whales, be rehomed as soon as possible.
A petition created by Animals Asia has received more than 680,0000 signatures. Over 500,000 people have signed a separate petition created by Humane Society International and the Born Free Foundation.
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Professor Alastair Macmillan, Humane Society International/UK’s veterinary adviser, viewed the footage and said: “This polar bear is showing classic stereotypical behaviour, including head swaying and repetitive pacing, induced by frustration and poor welfare.
“This is the animal’s attempts to cope with stressful, aversive situations such as barren enclosures, boredom and constant disturbance by visitors.
“The conditions in which he is being kept are completely unsuitable, vastly removed from anything approaching his natural habitat, and if something is not done then he will likely slip further and further into mental decline.”
Chris Draper, associate director for Animal Welfare and Care, Born Free Foundation said: “The problems associated with keeping polar bears in captivity are well-known, which makes the barren and inadequate conditions for the polar bear named Pizza at the Grandview shopping centre aquarium all the more appalling.
“It is abundantly clear that this bear needs, among other things, far more space, natural light and significantly improved opportunities for natural behaviour - as a minimum. If this cannot be provided at Grandview aquarium, then the only responsible action to take would be to move the bear to another facility with better conditions.
“We are calling on the authorities to work with the animal protection community as a priority to find a better life for Pizza.”