The polar bear dubbed the saddest in the world has been given a temporary reprieve from her Chinese shopping mall prison.
Pizza, who came to the world’s attention after pictures of her posing for selfies with shoppers emerged on the internet, has been moved to an ocean park in Tianjin, in China’s north, while upgrades and “minor alterations” are made to her glass cage.
“Pizza the polar bear will temporarily leave Guangzhou and return to her birthplace,” the Grandview Mall Aquarium said on its official account on WeChat, a popular mobile-based Chinese social media platform. It did not say when Pizza was expected to return.
Animal rights groups are now fighting to have the move made permanent. Dozens of Chinese animal welfare organisations wrote a letter to Governor Zhu Xiaodan of Guangzhou, China, to demand that Pizza be re-homed.
In the open letter, the animal groups urged the governor to take action to close the exhibits and find happier homes for all the animals. They also appealed to the nation’s industrial and commercial sectors to help stop this cruel trend of displaying animals at malls.
More than one million people have also signed petitions by the Humane Society International and other groups campaigning to close the Guangzhou mall, which also houses belugas and walruses, in the past few months.
“No amount of renovation could ever make a shopping mall a suitable place for this animal,” Humane Society campaigner Peter Li said in a statement.
The glass-walled room that Pizza lived in has no natural air or light, and she often paces around dejectedly while shaking her head violently from side-to-side.
The Human Society International said the footage of Pizza’s pacing and head swaying was evidence of mental decline.
Peter Li added that returning Pizza to the mall would be “cruel and heartless”.
PETA declared the habitat overcrowded, artificial and sparse.
“The aquarium displays 500 species — including two polar bears, five walrus calves, six young belugas whales, and two Arctic wolves — in barren enclosures that are too small for them to engage in natural behaviour,” it wrote in a statement.