Polar Bear Trapped In Mall Aquarium Is Going Into 'Mental Decline'

A veterinarian says that if nothing changes, Pizza the bear will only get worse.

10/27/2016 11:32 am ET | Updated Oct 27, 2016
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Tourists look at Pizza the polar bear, who resides inside this aquarium at a mall in Guangzhou, China.

Things seem to be getting even worse for Pizza, a polar bear trapped inside a stark enclosure at a Chinese mall.

The bear, a resident of Grandview Mall Aquarium in Guangzhou, China, is exhibiting clear signs of “mental decline,” according to a veterinary advisor for Humane Society International, which released a new video of Pizza on Tuesday.

Mai Zi, an activist with China Animal Protection Power, shot the footage of the bear in late September. The video shows him pacing back and forth, violently shaking his head and chewing on a metal grate inside the blue-lit concrete room he calls home.

Facing increasing global scrutiny, the aquarium says the bear is fine. 

“Pizza is very healthy,” aquarium staff told The New York Times in an email. The aquarium reportedly said it conducts research and education to promote biodiversity and claimed, “You can’t entirely separate animal welfare from these social benefits.” 

The aquarium also told the Los Angeles Times that its has “always operated with an ‘animals first’ philosophy.”

But animal welfare advocates disagree. 

“This polar bear is showing classic stereotypical behaviour, including head swaying and repetitive pacing, induced by frustration and poor welfare,” veterinarian Alastair Macmillan wrote in HSI’s news release. “This is the animal’s attempts to cope with stressful, aversive situations such as barren enclosures, boredom and constant disturbance by visitors.”

The vet warns that if nothing changes, Pizza “will likely slip further and further into mental decline.”

VCG via Getty Images
Pizza the polar bear inside his enclosure at the Grandview shopping mall on July 27, 2016. He is the only live polar bear in Guangzhou, China.

Pizza’s enclosure, on the sixth floor of the mall, measures about 430 square feet ― and there’s no evidence the bear gets any stimulation from it, aside from a shallow pool of water and some ice on the floor, HSI’s China policy specialist, Peter J. Li, told The Huffington Post in an email. Though some reports stated the aquarium had two bears, only one was there when HSI visited, Li noted.

The aquarium entered the international spotlight in January, when animal advocacy group AnimalsAsia launched a petition to free Pizza, along with other animals living in deplorable conditions at the facility, including arctic foxes, walruses and beluga whales.

VCG via Getty Images
Pizza the polar bear stands at the door of his enclosure.

In September, England’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park publicly offered to take in Pizza and give him a better life, but the aquarium rejected the offer.

Li encouraged people concerned about Pizza and the mall’s other inhabitants to write a “polite message” to Chinese diplomatic missions around the world. On top of his concerns about Pizza’s suffering, Li also expressed fear that the facility is giving people the wrong idea about how to treat animals — especially young children, who make up a high percentage of visitors.

“The aquarium, or any animal display facilities inside shopping malls are spreading wrong information about wildlife and are encouraging disrespectful attitude towards animals among the visitors,” he said.

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