China

Pizza the 'sad' polar bear's owners plan to expand mall zoo

Pizza the polar bear Image copyright Animals Asia
Image caption Pizza the polar bear is dubbed the saddest in the world

A Chinese shopping mall which houses Pizza, dubbed the "world's saddest polar bear", says it is planning an expansion.

The Guangzhou Grandview Aquarium said it wanted to take in giant pandas among thousands of other animals.

The aquarium was criticised internationally after footage emerged of Pizza living in cramped conditions unsuitable for his species.

A UK wildlife park's offer to rehouse the bear was recently dismissed.

The aquarium has been at the centre of controversy after it opened in January inside a shopping mall.

The mall told the BBC it was planning an indoor zoo, about 5,900 sq m in size, which will house pandas and white tigers among other animals.

It is already home to beluga whales, walrus calves, a wolf and arctic foxes.

"It concerns me that they're trying to house any large mammals within the shopping centre," said Welfare Director Dave Neals of Animals Asia, an animal charity that has been petitioning to close down the site.

"I don't believe there would be enough space or that they would be able to provide adequately for those animals,"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Giant pandas may soon make an appearance at a Chinese shopping mall

Pizza lives in a small enclosure, with a constant stream of visitors taking photos or tapping on its glass exhibit.

Animals Asia said the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, home to a specially created polar bear habitat, offered to house Pizza but was turned down.

Mr Neale called this decision "disappointing".

"It was an opportunity for them to actually do something that was going to improve the bear's welfare and ultimately there's very little you can do within that type of enclosure to make that type of bear happy and healthy," he told the BBC.

The owners of the indoor zoo in Guangzhou insist they have made improvements to the park since July.

But Animals Asia said conditions were still cramped, with "nothing natural".

The mall said it had submitted its expansion plans to the authorities, and hopes to finish building work by 2017.

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