Chinese aquarium rejects offer to relocate polar bear

Photos of forlorn-looking bear in gloomy room prompt concerns

BEIJING • A Chinese aquarium holding a forlorn-looking polar bear named Pizza yesterday said it has "no need" for foreign interference after activists offered to move the animal to a British zoo.

Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based organisation, created a petition calling for the closure of the Grandview aquarium in the Chinese city of Guangzhou that attracted half a million signatures.

Photos of Pizza shared widely on social media show the bear lying listlessly on the ground in a gloomy, windowless room while visitors crowd around taking photos on their cellphones.

Activists said the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in England had offered to adopt Pizza on condition that it was not replaced by another polar bear, adding that the zoo would not pay for the animal due to "fear that any funds could be used to buy more animals".

But the zoo declined to comment or confirm the offer while the aquarium operator said no one had contacted him about taking the bear, adding that they "have no need for foreign organisations to get involved".

"Yorkshire Wildlife Park has not contacted us," said the general manager of the aquarium, a man surnamed Fan who refused to give his full name.

"We are a legally compliant aquarium, run according to Chinese standards and protecting animal rights. In the future, we will strengthen the protection of animal rights and welfare."

The cost of transferring the large carnivore nearly 10,000km from Guangzhou to Doncaster, in England, "will be raised if the offer is accepted", Animals Asia said.

The activists said they are now pushing for a meeting with the aquarium in hopes of getting a response to their offer, adding that they will draw up a bill if officials agree to have Pizza delivered.

The animal welfare director of Animals Asia, Mr Dave Neale, said in a statement that the aquarium operators "have the chance to put their mistake right" and end the crush of negative media attention.

The group has been publicising Pizza's plight since the beginning of the year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese aquarium rejects offer to relocate polar bear'. Print Edition | Subscribe