"World's saddest zoo" bosses invite Animals Asia to discuss concerns

13 April 2016

Dave Neale at Grandview Aquarium

Grandview Aquarium - which includes a live polar bear in a small glass enclosure - has told Animals Asia it will improve facilities.

The zoo in a shopping centre in Guangzhou, China has revealed that international pressure has led to plans for a redesign and for better animal welfare support. This latest update was revealed by Grandview senior staff at a meeting this week with animal welfare charity Animals Asia.

This response includes inviting Animals Asia to give advice on improving the lives of the captive animals as well as offering vet care. But there remains no suggestion that Grandview will close the aquarium or rehouse animals.

Grandview’s reaction follows a petition that has been signed by nearly 130,000 animal lovers demanding the facility be closed.

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale (pictured above outside Grandview) visited Guangzhou to meet with Grandview Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Director Max Xie.

Dave Neale said:

“Grandview are genuinely shocked by the international outrage at their aquarium and the awful facilities used to house animals. As is so often the case I believe that the cruelty is as much about a lack of knowledge as commercial pressures. It is unlikely that Grandview will close in the near future - although, as a result of the publicity, much of it is currently closed for redesign.

“We were told that ‘Japanese experts’ are behind what will be a relaunched attraction. On one hand we have to be pleased that pressure has told so quickly - the original aquarium was only launched earlier this year. On the other hand Japan’s reputation for providing facilities with animal welfare in mind, isn’t great. But we understand the remit is very much about improving care so we have to be hopeful - especially as they now know the world is watching. In addition, they have accepted our advice for better care and have agreed to listen to ongoing advice in the future.”

Animals Asia’s Captive Animal Welfare programme has a long history of working with zoos in Asia to promote better animal care. The programme represents a pragmatic response to the issue of poorly run and resourced zoos and safari parks. While Animals Asia does not condone such facilities it believes that by working with them they are best placed to assist animals and advocate for future improvement.

An example includes recent work with Hanoi Zoo where staff were trained in providing enrichment for animals, and advice on facility improvement meant an elephant being let off its chain for the first time in five years. In addition the ongoing relationship saw the zoo eventually agree to end all animal performance.

Arctic wolf at the Grandview

Dave Neale added:

“It would appear unlikely that Grandview, with the space it has, will ever be able to provide anything like the facilities required by animals. There will never be a time when polar bears can ever comfortably be kept inside a shopping centre, and certainly not in the small glass case that currently houses them. With that in mind the campaign to close Grandview does not end here.

“However, if allowed, then we will work to improve the welfare of the animals. That should not be seen as legitimising this facility. As far as we are concerned we are working for the animals. We cannot turn our backs on them. And we have a history of turning perceived adversaries into animal advocates - something that could be seen over the past year when Beijing Zoo hosted our anti-animal performance exhibition.”

Grandview includes two white bears — billed as polar bears but one is more likely a polar bear–brown bear hybrid – five walrus calves, six young beluga whales and two Arctic wolves.

Arctic wolf at the Grandview