China: Outrage as shopping centre displays polar bear

Online petition signed by more than half a million people demands closure of theme park where the animal is on display.

Guangzhou, China – More than half a million people have signed an online petition calling for the closure of a theme park in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where a polar bear is on show.

The Arctic animal, who goes by the name of Pizza, is the main attraction for people visiting the Grandview shopping centre.

But animal-rights groups say conditions in the theme park are incredibly poor and have called for the polar bear to be moved.

“This obviously affects him psychologically and behaviourally, which then affects his level of happiness,” Karina O’Carroll, of Animals Asia, told Al Jazeera.

The manager of the theme park has dismissed allegations that the polar bear was being mistreated, and accused the animal-rights groups as also the international media of conducting a witch-hunt against him and his colleagues.

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Nevertheless, many of the spectators are also expressing their concern for the bear.

“This place is very small,” one woman said. “The bear is playing by himself. He’s lonely, and he needs interactions.”

The online campaign has so far gathered more than 530,000 signatures, but there is no law covering animal welfare in China.

“When people are unaware of the actual trauma to these animals living in conditions like this, they will keep going to see them,” Animals Asia’s O’Carroll said.

“So we really need to educate the public that facilities such as these cannot meet the natural needs, behaviourally and physically, of the animals.”

Source: Al Jazeera