Global anger at the plight of ‘the saddest polar bear in the world’, who was caged in appalling conditions in a Chinese shopping mall, has borne fruit, with the mall owners agreeing to send him back to the ocean park where he was born.
Earlier this year a viral video of the three-year-old bear, called Pizza, slumped on his side, her mouth quivering, broke the hearts of animal lovers around the world.
Pizza repeatedly thumped his paws against a metal door and chucked ice lumps about with his mouth before falling asleep in a dark corner.
The owners of Grandview Shopping Mall in the city of Guangzhou in southern China came under huge pressure both nationally and internationally and they have now relented and grudgingly agreed to move Pizza to an ocean park in northern China.
They said it was a ‘temporary’ move – suggesting they plan to renovate the aquarium where he was housed – but gave no more details.
The mall owners announced on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, they were sending Pizza back to the park, where he was born and where he will be reunited with his parents.
The move is due to start today and Dr Peter Li, from Humane Society International, said: ‘Pizza the polar bear has endured a life of deprivation and suffering in his small, artificial glass-fronted room at the shopping mall, so the news that he’s getting out at last makes me very happy and relieved for him.
‘But we implore the mall to make this a permanent move for Pizza and to not condemn him to return. At last he will feel the sun on his fur, sniff fresh air and see the sky above him in the company of his mum and dad.
‘No amount of renovation could ever make a shopping mall a suitable place for this animal, and to send him back now would be cruel and heartless.’
Qin Xiaona, director of Capital Animal Welfare Association, said: ‘It’s a good decision, the right decision for Pizza, but it’s not the end.
‘Temporary is not good enough. Now we hope that Grandview will learn from this episode and move Pizza permanently so that he never again has to endure the dreadful life in a shopping mall.