SHANGHAI (AFP) - A polar bear dubbed the "world's saddest" by animal rights activists has been removed from a Chinese shopping mall where campaigners said it was suffering in unsuitable conditions.
The Grandview Mall in the southern city of Guangzhou held a farewell party for Pizza the bear at the weekend, it said on social media.
A spokesman for the mall, which set up an "Ocean World" attraction with 500 species to try to draw in shoppers, told AFP: "Pizza left the aquarium with escorts after the farewell party" on Sunday (Nov 13).
Chinese media reports said he was returning to the facility where he was born in captivity in the northern port of Tianjin.
The mall claimed the move was a temporary one due to the facility being renovated, and that Pizza would return after the works were completed.
But the US-based Humane Society International (HSI) mounted a media-friendly campaign to highlight the bear's plight, coining the description the "world's saddest polar bear" and generating global headlines.
It distributed video showing Pizza pacing around his 40-sq-m glass-fronted enclosure and shaking his head as onlookers took pictures on their cellphones.
The footage showed the bear was in poor physical and mental condition, it said.
Mr Peter Li, China policy expert at HSI said in a statement: "Pizza the polar bear has endured a life of deprivation and suffering in his small, artificial glass-fronted room at the shopping mall.
"At last he will feel the sun on his fur, sniff fresh air and see the sky above in the company of his mum and dad."
The move was a result of public pressure, he said, and suggested that if the bear was in poor health that could be another factor.
"We implore the Mall to make this a permanent move for Pizza and to not condemn him to return," he added.
Pictures of the bear's farewell party posted on China's Twitter-like Weibo by the mall showed children queuing up to say goodbye to the bear.
"Tears and sadness are only temporary, we will make the cosiest home to await your return," it said.