Activists condemn China hotel with polar bear enclosure

Harbin Polarland opened its hotel last week to full books and widespread criticism for enclosing live polar bears for viewing pleasure.

A hotel in China built around a polar bear enclosure for guests’ viewing pleasure has opened to swift criticism from animal rights activists.

Part of the Harbin Polarland theme park in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang province, the hotel opened last Friday with 21 rooms and told visitors the live polar bears are their “neighbours 24 hours a day”. Bedroom windows face the bears’ pen, and a video shows the animals, a threatened species, being photographed by guests under harsh warm lights.

Harbin Polarland was established in 2005 and bills itself as the world’s first polar performing arts amusement park. The polar bear enclosure consisted of artificial ice, fake rocks and icicles, small pools of water and a white painted floor.

Animal rights groups have reacted with immediate outrage, calling for customers to boycott businesses that profit “from animals’ misery”. “Polar bears belong in the Arctic, not in zoos or glass boxes in aquariums — and certainly not in hotels,” said PETA Asia vice-president Jason Baker.

He added: “Polar bears are active for up to 18 hours a day in nature, roaming home ranges that can span thousands of miles, where they enjoy a real life.”

Recently, China amended the law to ban wildlife consumption for food owing to concerns over the coronavirus’s origins. But animal parts are still used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Speaking to Reuters, Yang Liu, a Harbin Polarland spokesperson, said the indoor area is only part of the bears’ total enclosure, and that they are let outdoors when temperature and air quality permit.

She added that the hotel is fully booked through a trial period, as interest in staying at the hotel is very high. The rooms range from 1,888 to 2,288 yuan (£210.18 to £321.50).

a spokesperson for the China Animal Protection Network, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP: “Gaps in China’s wildlife protection law allows businesses to exploit animals without any concern for their welfare.”

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