China

'Saddest polar bear' moved temporarily from Chinese mall

This picture taken on July 24, 2016 shows visitors taking photos of a polar bear Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The mall posted on Chinese social media that it would "await Pizza's return"

The "world's saddest polar bear" has been moved from a Chinese shopping mall and sent back to the ocean park where he was born.

The move is only temporary, however, with the Grandview Aquarium in Guangzhou saying that he would be returned following renovation works.

The mall posted on Chinese social media that it would "await Pizza's return".

Almost a million people have signed a petition to close the aquarium in Guangzhou where Pizza is kept.

Peter Li, China policy specialist at Humane Society International, said in a statement that Pizza, who lives indoors at the mall in a small enclosure, would at last "feel the sun on his fur, sniff fresh air and see the sky above him".

"But we implore the mall to make this a permanent move. No amount of renovation could ever make a shopping mall a suitable place for this animal, and to send him back would be cruel and heartless."

Mr Li said the mall's decision to move Pizza might be due to him becoming visibly sick and distressed.

"We warned the mall that soon his decline would be so apparent that it would be difficult to have him on public display," he said.

'Parting is always sad'

The Grandview Aquarium "ocean theme park" has been at the centre of controversy after it opened in January inside a shopping mall.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Footage had emerged of Pizza showing him slumped on the floor of his enclosure

Video footage which later emerged, showing Pizza slumped on the floor of his enclosure, earned him the widely used title of "world's saddest polar bear".

The mall did not say exactly where Pizza was being taken, but that it was only saying "goodbye for a short period of time," while it upgraded its exhibitions.

It was not clear if Pizza's widely criticised enclosure was being modified to make it more suitable for this size and species.

The rest of the mall - also home to beluga whales, walrus calves, a wolf and arctic foxes - will stay open.

The mall threw a farewell party for Pizza on Sunday, with pictures showing children gathered around the exhibit and farewell messages wishing for his return.

"Parting is always sad, but you will have a comforting home to come back to," it said on Weibo.

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