GUANGZHOU, China – Grandview Aquarium, described as the “world’s saddest zoo,” continues to draw attention as hundreds of thousands of activists petition its operator to release the animals and close up shop for good.
The aquarium opened inside the Grandview Mall in Guangzhou, China on Jan. 9. It came under fire almost immediately, FOX 61 reported. Critics say the facility provides animals, including two polar bears, with little shelter and reprieve. Animal rights group Animals Asia, for example, has described spectators banging on a polar bear’s glass enclosure and shouting at it in order to take selfies.
In a recent note activist group PETA described the animals’ habitat as overcrowded, artificial and sparse. “The aquarium displays 500 species—including two polar bears, five walrus calves, six young beluga whales, and two Arctic wolves—in barren enclosures that are too small for them to engage in natural behavior,” it wrote.
On March 8, Animals Asia launched a petition calling for the closure of the aquarium. The petition has gathered more than 285,000 signatures thus far. “We are calling on the Chinese public not to attend this attraction,” said David Neale, Welfare Director of Animals Asia, in the petition’s press release. “We are calling for it to be closed down. This is a bear that suffers for what? For selfies? For shopping?”Animals Asia praised the region’s “netizens” who’ve kept away from the shopping center, but noted that curious onlookers continue to pour into the center.
“There is no excuse for any animal to be trapped this way but it’s widely believed that polar bears are one of the hardest of all animals to effectively provide for in captivity,” said Neale. “Polar bears often exhibit ‘stereotypic’ behaviour as captivity restricts their natural instincts such as the need to forage.”
At the time of its opening, Grandview Mall anticipated up to 250,000 daily visitors. The aquarium has denied claims that animals are kept in unfit conditions.
Animals Asia wrote on July 13 that, after a follow-up visit, “the bear keeper provided piles of snow for the bears and is now starting a programme of enrichment.” Animals Asia added it will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide feedback to Grandview Aquarium.
CNN and FOX News contributed to this report.