After being caged in a glass enclosure for 300 days, the world’s saddest polar bear is getting out. For now.
Three-year-old Pizza was sent temporarily to her birthplace to reunite with her parents (link in Chinese), according to the Grandview Mall in Guangzhou, which had held her and other animals under a lease with a park in Tianjin (link in Chinese). Pizza and the other animals “will return accordingly, to the aquarium, to their home, after the upgradings of the facilities and animal enrichments (link in Chinese, registration required).”
While state mouthpiece People’s Daily said it was a happy event for Pizza, some questioned the temporary movement and real destination of Pizza.
“Does the word ‘temporary’ say she will be back (to the aquarium) and tortured after the renewal of the lease?” China Cetacean Alliance (CCA), an animal welfare organization that has been urging the mall to stop importing animals said (link in Chinese, registration required) on Nov. 13. CCA told Quartz,”whether Pizza was really returned to Tianjin was in question. It could just be words from the staffs, and they could be sending her away because of the due of the lease.”
Pizza’s move came after public petitions to release the bear and after she showed distress signs (link in Chinese, registration required) due to captivity. While Pizza is gone, Grandview continues to house animals in the mall. Last month, the shopping center held an animal parade. It plans to open a new zoo early next year.
The Mall threw a goodbye party for Pizza on Nov. 13, where Pizza’s keeper Sasa cried and dozens of visitors (link in Chinese) were seen surrounding the glass enclosure. Grandview said it sent Pizza away so it could upgrade her enclosure and didn’t respond to questions about her lease. Grandview spokesman denied it acted due to public pressure and told local newspaper Guangzhou Daily Nov. 14 (link in Chinese) that Pizza would return by mid-June next year.