SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — A video depicting a polar bear suffering from the sweltering summer heat at a South Korean zoo has sparked a controversy, with some accusing the zoo of animal abuse.
The video, released by South Korean animal rights group Care, shows a polar bear named ‘Tonky’ confined to an indoor enclosure at Everland, a popular theme park, with no water in his pool, visibly in pain and withering in the summer heat.
Following the release of the video, a protest was held at Yeouido Hangang Park last month calling for Everland to improve the living conditions of the polar bear.
Polar bears are most comfortable in cold temperatures and are easily affected by heat, with some turning green when the temperature rises above five degrees Celsius.
It’s not the first time an animal rights group has expressed concerns over the health of Tonky, as numerous animal interest groups at home and abroad including Zoocheck Canada and PETA have previously urged officials at Everland to improve the living conditions for polar bears.
Including the lack of space, insufficient cooling devices and an enclosure that it no ways resembles the natural habitat of polar bears, a number of warning signs have been pointed out, but to no avail.
“Tonky was born in South Korea. Living here for 20 years helped him to get used to the temperature,” Everland said in response to the criticism in 2015.
Two years on, Everland’s new statement suggests the country’s largest theme park hasn’t changed much from its earlier tone-deaf response.
“(Tonky’s) pool is drained twice a week for cleaning, and we believe the video was filmed during a regular cleaning session. We make sure to keep the temperature at 18 degrees Celsius in the summer, which is lower than the average temperature in Manitoba, Canada in the summer, where many polar bears live.
Polar bears are thought to be one of the hardest animals to keep in a zoo along with dolphins, as creating an environment similar to their natural habitat is almost impossible, which often sparks animal welfare controversies.
Last July, Seoul Grand Park decided to release two of its remaining Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins to their native waters off Jeju Island, as part of efforts to end a dolphin show which began in 1984, in the wake of growing public criticism against the poor living conditions of zoo animals.