Petition requesting closure is launched as Grandview Aquarium makes international headlines and is beset by bad publicity after official opening.
Our report hit the web the day before the official launch. Our international Facebook post reached over 150,000 people, with over three times more reading about it via our Weibo account in China. Millions more were reached by subsequent reports by the Washington Post, Inside Edition and the influential South China Morning Post.
Housed in a shopping mall, the "zoo" includes two white bears — billed as polar bears but more likely polar bear–brown bear hybrid – five walrus calves, six young beluga whales and two Arctic wolves in woefully inadequate space.
Dave Neale Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director said:
"We helped raise the alarm on this awful cruelty ahead of the official launch. What they must have hoped to be a triumphant opening has instead been mired in controversy. This international awareness is being mirrored in China and Chinese social media is being very vocal on the subject."
The Washington Post China Bureau Chief Simon Denyer wrote:
"Awareness of animal-welfare issues is relatively low in China, yet it is growing among the young. Images of animals on display in the Guangzhou shopping mall have provoked outrage on social media, and a few of the tourists there on a recent day could be overheard expressing concern about the 'skinny' and 'pathetic' -looking animals."
Amid the reports it has also been claimed that Guangzhou Ocean and Fishery Bureau is investigating the aquarium following rumours that animals died or were hurt when being moved into the aquarium. Chinese social media posts have posted about unconfirmed deaths and subsequent replacement of animals. It is also believed that there is little or no on-site vet care.
The China Cetacean Alliance had its open letter, which details the many problems with the site, delivered to Grandview management by a local journalist. To date both activists and journalists are believed to have had no official response to the accusations of cruelty.
Dave Neale added:
"It's worth noting that this was launched under the guise of conservation. An old trick that those who profit from cruelty have learned to utilise - essentially trying to pretend their cruelty is education. We hope that this outcry will dissuade others from following their example. Working alongside local partners we'll continue to keep the pressure up."