As animal rights increasingly gain momentum in public discussion, activists are shedding light on the deplorable living conditions that are destructive to their existence. Without urgent action, each day, thousands of animals will continue to lose their lives.
When shocking footage surfaced of Pizza, a polar bear who was found living in inhumane conditions at an aquarium in China, animal activists across the globe united to rescue Pizza, but the proceeding battle would not be an easy one…
A Shopping Mall Unlike No Other
The Grandview is a glitzy shopping mall in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. The attraction boasts an indoor animal exhibit, which is home to hundreds of animals, including Arctic foxes, walruses and belugas, but the polar bear’s tragic situation was among the most heart wrenching…
World’s Saddest Polar Bear
The Grandview Mall is home to the “World’s Saddest Polar Bear,”3-year-old Pizza. Pizza gained worldwide attention by NGO Animals Asia, which released a video of her lying on the ground, blinking morosely as visitors banged on the glass, aspiring for the perfect selfie….
A Sad Polar Bear
In the footage, Pizza is alone, lying in his bare, concrete enclosure at the shopping mall. As excited mall goers crowd around the glass, Pizza’s movements are oddly slow and somewhat lethargic. Many viewers of the heartbreaking video describe Pizza as “empty” and “lost”.
Locked up in a tiny, blue concrete room, Pizza has no access to sunlight and little room to indulge in natural behaviors vital to his wellbeing. His glass-windowed walls look out onto the visitors’ area, where each day, crowds of tourists blind him with constant camera flashes.
Harassed Round The Clock
In Pizza’s enclosure, there is no place to hide. Despite a sign in Chinese, which reads, “polar bears spend over 66% of their life sleeping,” Pizza barely sleeps the adequate amount necessary for her wellbeing. On a daily basis, round the clock, mall visitors scream her name and pound profusely on the window to try to get her attention.
A Surprise Visit
When a local activist made a surprise visit to Pizza, he noticed how visitors attempted to take photos of Pizza, as staff members held up “no flash” signs and urged people not to frighten the bear, but to no avail. The flashes from their phones frighten Pizza, driving him into the corner of his enclosure…
A Shocking Video
With the release of the shocking video, animal lovers around the world jumped to Pizza’s aid. More than a million people signed petitions calling for the release of the World’s Saddest Polar Bear and 50 nonprofit organizations sent a letter to Zhu Xiaodan, the governor of Guangzhou Province, asking him to urgently remove Pizza from the mall. But, without any hesitation, the governor refused…
Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom offered to give the polar bear a home in its 10-acre enclosure, a place resembling his natural habitat that would encourage him to thrive. However, the Chinese authorities have also refused their offer, stating that Pizza will not leave China and that it is his home.
Problems Had Just Begun
The Grandview’s general manager was also reported by AFP news agency as stating that there is “no need for foreign organizations to get involved”. Advocates of Pizza felt defeated by the Chinese authorities’ reluctance to help but, unfortunately, their problems had just begun…
To make matters worse, new video footage released by Humane Society International and its Chinese partner group VShine, show the polar bear exhibiting worrying stereotypical behaviors, such as head swaying and repetitive pacing. This type of behavior is evidence of frustration and mental decline in animals that have been confined to a small area. This would be one of many videos showing the horrors of Pizza’s ordeal…
Pizza’s Coping Strategies
Another video shows Pizza swinging his head and biting and pawing at an air vent, obvious signs of distress. This is Pizza’s attempts to cope with stressful, aversive situations such as barren enclosures, boredom and constant disturbance by visitors.
Refusing to give up on Pizza, hundreds of animal activist groups have started a petition calling for the closure of the mall’s animal exhibits. The international community had been outraged at Pizza’s cruel conditions and the reluctance of his caretakers to the total to one million global petitioners.
A Joint Statement
Animal activist groups sought the help of world renown arctic experts to join forces in their fight to move Pizza to a healthier and acceptable home. The arctic trainers used their knowledge and experience with polar bears to release a joint statement to Chinese authorities detailing all the unacceptable conditions of Pizza’s current home inside the mall. This would be Pizza’s last hope for a happier life…
Death Is A Possibility
Chinese authorities had been told that the conditions in which Pizza is being kept are unsuitable and not remotely close to his natural habitat. And if something is not done immediately, then he will likely slip further and further into mental and physical decline, which could ultimately lead to his death…
After months of pressure from the international community, the Chinese authorities were finally forced into action. Fans of the World’s Saddest Polar Bear will be happy to know that his old exhibit has reportedly closed indefinitely. Pizza has been relocated to a bigger and more suitable enclosure in another part of China with his mother, who he had not seen for over a year.
A Happy Reunion
Pizza has remained at the aquarium in Tianjin, where he’s been living in an enclosure with his mother. “Pizza is with his mom and looks apparently happier,” says Peter Li, a Chinese policy specialist. Video and photographs taken of Pizza at the aquarium appear to show a healthy looking, unstressed animal in a somewhat livelier and larger space.
A Better Health Prognosis
In one heartwarming video clip, Pizza and his mother are seen roughhousing together. “To see this bear playing and not focused on pattern behavior, that made me really happy,” says National Geographic Society program officer Sandra Elvin, who used to guide polar bear expeditions in Manitoba, Canada. “He looks a million times better.”
More Alone Time
Pizza’s new space includes den-like places for him to hide in when he wants alone time, something that is necessary for the well-being of polar bears. Pizza also has social interaction with his mother, which helps to keep his mind active.
Far From Ideal
Despite some improvements to Pizza’s living situation, the aquarium is far from ideal. There’s likely not nearly enough stimulation for him and it’s problematic that Pizza doesn’t have a bigger enclosure and can’t spend time outdoors in suitable conditions. But, Pizza’s current situation is desirable compared to the countless other species of animals who remain in deplorable conditions in Grandview Mall. As a matter of fact, China is recognized as one of the biggest culprits of animal cruelty…
What Happened To The Other Animals?
China has no laws that dictate how animals should live in captivity. Many of these animals are living in unnatural conditions that are making their lives miserable. Sadly, the tragic plight of Pizza would not bring out any other change to the Chinese authorities’ approach to animal welfare. Grandview Mall has plans to introduce another zoo with 200 species including four pandas and white tigers, next year.