GRAND VIEW mall in Guangzhou, China is home to what protesters have dubbed “the world’s saddest polar bear”. The polar bear, named “Pizza”, lives in an aquarium inside the mega mall, which boasts Western retailers as well as other wild animal exhibits such as beluga whales, walrus calves, Arctic foxes and wolves, as well as a whale shark. All live in conditions that have been alternately described as “dismal”, “horrifying”, and “sad”.
Animal rights and welfare organizations, such as the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia, are campaigning to have the indoor zoo closed or — at the very least — its animals rehoused. An Animals Asia petition has so far garnered over 330,000 signatures calling for the closure of Grandview Aquarium.
The saddest selfies in the world
While the opportunity to see a live polar bear may be a rare and exciting attraction for many, posing for selfies with a lethargic, depressed and apparently unhealthy specimen is one of the worst ways to have this experience.
Chinese netizens have repeatedly asked the public to stay away – effectively shaming the facility from the outset. There have, however, been enough curious visitors to ensure that animals are plagued by a repeated knocking on their window to gain their attention for photographs.
Animals Asia representatives have visited the Grandview Aquarium at the invitation of its bosses, who subsequently promised to improve conditions for the animals. While the animal welfare organization is fundamentally opposed to the existence of such facilities, it has a pragmatic policy of working with zoos and similar facilities in order to “assist animals and advocate for future improvement”.
The exploitation of wild animals: A global problem
While China receives a fair amount of negative attention for its circuses, zoos and animal shows — and rightly so — it is far from alone when it comes to poor treatment of exotic animals. For example, there are more privately owned tigers in the United States alone than make up the entire global wild tiger population. Many of these captive tigers are kept as pets in back yards. One famous truck stop in the state of Louisiana has essentially managed to pay its way out of following the state’s animal welfare laws and maintain a tiger, which has lived in a cage next to the facility’s parking lot since it was a cub more than 15 years ago.
Meanwhile in Iceland…
Curiously enough, another variety of polar-bear selfie has been gathering a bit of media attention of late. In Iceland, where members of the species occasionally end up via drifting ice flows, a female polar bear was shot and killed when it wandered on to a farm near the town of Blonduos. A few candid selfies with the dead bear followed.
While castaway polar bears being shot by alarmed Icelandic farmers may be tragic, it is a far cry from confining them to glass cases in urban shopping malls to be gawked at all day. One is an unfortunate and perhaps avoidable, while the other is downright cruel and exploitative.
— PETA Asia (@PETAAsia) July 18, 2016