The Grandview Mall in Guangzhou that holds Pizza, the world’s saddest polar bear, made a five-minute documentary (video, link in Chinese) of the bear’s daily life in order to show “Pizza has been living happily under the delicate care.”
The documentary came after the mall refused to release the polar bear, rejecting “foreign interference” and describing itself as an environment protection education platform, a claim also used for a new zoo opening in January where white tigers will be imported.
Starting with a shot of Guangzhou at 5am, the film moves to staff preparing food and snow for the three-year-old bear, who has as his neighbors eight Arctic foxes, six Arctic wolves and several penguins in the 580,000-meter square (613,548 square feet) aquarium.
In the film, the mall said putting Pizza in the aquarium was a conservation method, and protects biological diversity. It noted that there are around 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears left on earth and global warming threatens their food supply, putting “polar bear in danger.”
The mall said, “Ex-situ is to move endangered species outside their natural habits and put them into zoos, aquariums for special cares and management, it is also an important part of protecting biological diversity.”
“Many animals were taken from their natural environment using the excuse of ex-situ,” said China Cetacean Alliance (CCA) (link in Chinese, registration required), a Beijing-based animal rights organization, “while captive animals lose chances to evolve naturally and some animal genes might not be diverse enough as a result.” Ex-situ conservation measures should be applied with the purpose of reintroducing the animal into the wild and as a support of in-situ measures, which protect animals in their natural environments, the alliance said.
The mall said it took advice from overseas for its standards in treating the bear. “China has no standards of raising polar bears, so the aquarium are referring to standards from European and American countries,” the film said. According to a polar-bear care manual (pdf, page.11) by US-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2009, because of “their large size and activity patterns, polar bears should be maintained in outdoor habitats under conditions of natural light and any indoor areas, except cubbing dens, should have skylights to provide natural lighting.” Pizza is completely indoors.
When the aquarium opens at 10am, Pizza starts her daily display until “8pm, when Pizza finishes her dinner and goes back to her chamber.” Pizza also had a 20-something caretaker in the documentary called Sasa, who cooked Pizza’s meals, cleaned her living environment and monitored Pizza’s health conditions.
Although Grandview has been increasing animal enrichments for Pizza like letting it dig food from ice cubes or snow and has realized that the polar bear couldn’t survive in the wild (link in Chinese), “it still refuses to send Pizza to shelters with better captive conditions,” CCA said (link in Chinese, registration required),” While Pizza suffers from distress by long-time captivity, including pacing back and forth and shaking its head (link in Chinese, registration required), or even tossed an ice cube towards the audience, these actions are interpreted by the mall as “naughty” and “outgoing.”