Nearly Two Years Later, Worlds Saddest Polar Bear No Longer Sad?

As animal welfare more and more turns into part of the general public dialog, it’s changing into extra frequent to see tales about animals residing in conditions which might be dangerous to their psychological and bodily well being. Take dolphins in marine parks, or Yemen’s ravenous zoo animals—or the tragic case of Pizza the polar bear.

Too usually we by no means discover out what finally occurs to those animals. Do they ever go away their decrepit enclosures in that zoo? Do they ever get a reprieve from performing for individuals? Do they survive their near-death experiences in captivity?

See more: Pizza the polar bear 2017

In a brand new collection, “The place are they now?” Wildlife Watch will report on animals whose plights have elicited widespread concern and sympathy, to see how they’re faring now. We start the collection right this moment with an replace on a bear known as Pizza, who’s been known as “the world’s saddest polar bear.” Please ship us an e mail at [email protected] if you would like to know the standing of a selected animal.

It’s been practically two years for the reason that wider public discovered about Pizza, a polar bear who was discovered residing in deplorable situations at an aquarium within the Grandview Mall in Guangzhou, a metropolis in southern China. The three-year-old bear grew to become the main focus of world media consideration in the summertime of 2016 after footage surfaced of him alone, mendacity in his naked, concrete enclosure on the shopping center. One other video confirmed him swinging his head and biting and pawing at an air vent—behaviors that sign misery.

Animal lovers jumped to his help. Greater than 1,000,000 individuals signed petitions calling for the discharge of the “world’s saddest polar bear,” and 50 nonprofit organizations despatched a letter to Zhu Xiaodan, the governor of Guangzhou Province, asking him to take away Pizza from the mall. A wildlife park in Doncaster, England, even stated it will soak up Pizza—a suggestion wildlife NGOs supported however the mall rejected.

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Then a few months later, in November, Grandview Mall posted on social media that Pizza has been nicely cared for however would quickly be despatched again to his birthplace—later decided to be Tianjin Haichang Polar Ocean World, an aquarium in northern China—so the mall may improve his exhibit. A spokesman for Grandview later stated Pizza would return in June 2017.

So the place is Pizza now?

Followers of the polar bear—and anybody who cares about animal welfare—will probably be pleased to know that Pizza hasn’t resumed his function as a mall entertainer. In truth his previous exhibit has reportedly closed indefinitely, says Peter Li, China coverage specialist for Humane Society Worldwide, which labored to free Pizza from the mall.

Pizza has remained on the aquarium in Tianjin, the place he’s been residing in an enclosure together with his mom, Li says. The Texas-based advocate is aware of this as a result of he’s been in contact with an activist who visited the aquarium in early April 2018.

“Pizza is together with his mother and appears apparently happier,” Li says. The aquarium didn’t reply to Wildlife Watch’s request for an interview.

Video and pictures taken of Pizza on the aquarium seem to indicate a healthy-looking, unstressed animal in a considerably livelier—and bigger—house. Whereas Pizza’s present digs fall far in need of the 1000’s of sq. miles out there to polar bears within the wild, his 2,150-square-foot house is roughly double the scale of the mall exhibit, in keeping with measurements reported by Quartz.

In a single downright lovable video clip, Pizza and his mom are seen roughhousing collectively. “To see this bear enjoying and never targeted on sample habits, that made me actually pleased,” says Nationwide Geographic Society program officer Sandra Elvin, who used to information polar bear expeditions in Manitoba, Canada. “He appears to be like 1,000,000 occasions higher.”

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There are seemingly a number of causes for this, in keeping with Li.

For one, Pizza has extra time away from the chatter of holiday makers and the flashes and clicks of their cellular phone cameras. The guests on the Tianjin aquarium aren’t as noisy and the ability is open solely throughout the day, Li says, whereas the mall stayed open into the night time.

And Pizza’s new house contains den-like locations for him to cover in when he needs alone time—one thing the American Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) says in a 2009 handbook is important for the well-being of polar bears.

Pizza additionally has social interplay together with his mom, which helps to maintain his thoughts energetic. “Bears are extremely smart,” says Don Moore, director of the Oregon Zoo and a bear advisor to the AZA. “You must consider stuff to maintain them engaged as an alternative of permitting them to get bored.”

Certainly, a video clip of Pizza seems to indicate him begging for meals earlier than being tossed one thing to eat—an exercise that signifies there’s at the least some effort to have interaction his thoughts, Moore says. (He cautions, nonetheless, that any coaching involving begging can lead a bear to beg even when meals isn’t out there—a possible misery habits—if the bear is rarely skilled to do extra advanced actions).

Regardless of some enhancements to Pizza’s residing state of affairs, Li says, the aquarium is way from best. There’s seemingly not practically sufficient stimulation for him, Li notes, and he thinks it’s problematic that Pizza doesn’t have a much bigger enclosure and may’t spend time outdoor in appropriate situations, which the AZA advises is entry to shade, chilled water, or ice piles.

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As Li places it, “There’s in all probability a greater place for Pizza than an aquarium in mainland China.”

Many aquariums in China aren’t comparable in high quality to ones in america or Europe, the place the trade has been round for longer and the place extra consideration is given to what animals want for his or her consolation, Li notes. To make issues worse, there’s no federal legislation in China that requires services to think about the welfare of captive animals—which suggests there’s no authorized incentive for services to deal with animals humanely.

Wildlife advocates are particularly involved about what this implies for animals in procuring malls in China—a rising development as companies try and offset losses to on-line procuring. (A report from 2016 predicted that as many as one-third of malls in China may shut down within the subsequent 5 years.)

“[Shopping malls] should not specialists in animal care, and it’s sending the incorrect message to customers,” Li says. “There’s no instructional function in any respect for a business enterprise to show animals.”

Pizza wasn’t the one animal held at Grandview Mall, in keeping with a number of information studies from 2016. There have been seals, Arctic foxes, and extra. Based on the Washington Submit, aquarium supervisor Li Chengtang advised native media that the ability supplies sufficient house for animals to dwell and play, however Submit reporters described wolves mendacity listlessly in a small room and beluga whales swimming in tiny tanks. The mall’s web site nonetheless lists the aquarium as an attraction.

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