In a circumscribed room adorned with stones and fake igloos, a floor painted white, and a small pool of icy water, two polar bears become the main attraction of Harbin Polar Land, a hotel in northeast China. It is called the “first hotel for polar bears in the world”, but the idea of endangering this species in addition to hotel guests did not appeal to animal rights organizations, which criticized the accommodation conditions of the two polar bears.
“These animals belong to the Arctic, not to a zoo or a glass box in an aquarium – and certainly not to a hotel,” Jason Baker, PETA’s vice president, told Reuters. “Polar bears are active in the wild for approximately 18 hours a day, where they can travel distances that are thousands of miles and enjoy real life.”
In Harbin Polar Land, the windows of the hotel’s 21 rooms face an enclosure where the two polar bears meet, who, according to the company’s WeChat report, keep guests company “while they eat, play or sleep” – an attraction that there are proved popular in china. In response to VICE, Yang Liu, a hotel spokesman, said that all rooms had been booked by May and cost between 240 and 300 euros per night each.
The hotel spokeswoman also responded to criticism from animal welfare organizations, ensuring that bears are kept in “appropriate air-conditioned environments and plenty of space to mimic conditions in the Arctic,” which ensures their wellbeing. Assurances that Anbarasi Boopal, one of the CEOs of the non-governmental animal rescue and rehabilitation organization ACRES, is certain they will not be followed.
“Dry floors, artificial decorations and 24 hour contact with hotel guests – all conditions that these animals neglect and disregard, that can be very nervous because there are no places where they can hide and display stereotypical behaviors in order to deal with stress “he told AFP. “It is shocking and even heartbreaking to see these enclosures that polar bears leave behind in terrible conditions – all for pure entertainment,” added the animal rights activist. Several organizations have urged customers and the rest of the Chinese population not to support practices that benefit animal suffering.
I sent staff and volunteers from @CBCGDF_China to investigate #polarbears at Harbin Hotel, Heilongjiang Prov. Arrived at the hotel this morning. We are closely monitoring the status of endangered species. Updates will follow shortly. pic.twitter.com/2NTGu0hPEi
– Jinfeng Zhou (@Zhou_jinfeng) March 15, 2021
According to The Guardian, China has long been criticized for animal exploitation. At stake are the facilities and poor care of endangered species that are increasingly used in components of traditional Chinese medicine. For a spokesman for the China Animal Protection Network, a Chinese non-governmental organization for animal welfare, this is explained by the various “loopholes in the animal welfare law in China that allow animals to be exploited without regard to their wellbeing,” he told AFP.
The polar bear display in Harbin Polar Land quickly reflected the treatments given to pizza, known as the “world’s saddest polar bear,” after it was trapped in a small space at a Chinese mall. After a worldwide campaign that culminated in a petition with more than a million signatures, the bear was taken to an aquarium where it was reunited with its mother.
Text edited by Amanda Ribeiro