A shopping centre has put plans to bring in live penguins for a fun day on ice following outraged protests from animal rights activists and customers.
The Ashley Centre, in Epsom, announced last Wednesday that visitors would have the chance to meet penguins as part of an "educational encounter" at the mall on June 29, to highlight the dangers of climate change to the animals at a penguin-themed fun day.
The video promoting the day, depicting penguins in the shopping centre after hours - showing how they had set up home in the centre due to the "altered state of their natural habitat", was posted on YouTube and had gone "viral", according to a spokeswoman for the centre.
UPDATE (Tuesday, June 18): The marketing video of the penguins in the Ashley Centre was subsequently removed by the Ashley Centre's PR team.
But in a u-turn on Friday evening, she said the fun day would now be going ahead without the penguins "in response to some customer feedback".
Earlier in the week, the centre’s manager, David Beddows, had said: "We know penguins are now facing a difficult future as their normal home environment is slowly being eroded and we are keen to find out more how we can help penguins all over the world.
"Visitors will be able to visit our educational encounter, meet the penguins and find out all about their lives and the challenges they face."
But international wildlife charity, The Born Free Foundation, urged The Ashley Centre to reconsider the move, saying that "such events send an inappropriate message to the public that penguins are little more than ‘living toys."
A spokesman for the foundation, which said it convinced London’s Hamley’s toyshop to abandon plans to have live penguins and reindeer in its shop for Christmas in 2010, said: "We are concerned to learn of yet another shopping facility planning to use live penguins to draw in customers.
"Penguins will be subjected to the stress of transportation, and the likelihood of being surrounded by large numbers of people in an unfamiliar and unnatural environment."
He said the penguins were to be provided by the Amazing Animals company which "insists that the penguins are captive bred", but that "being bred in captivity changes nothing about the species’ basic needs and behaviour, and that using the animals in this way carries a very high risk of poor welfare for the penguins."
He added: "Just because an activity appears to be legal does not make it right."
The Ashley Centre spokeswoman said all other "penguin-related activities and events" at the fun day, from 12pm to 3pm, would be unaffected and added there would be a "very special guest" who has not yet been named at the event.
Do you think The Ashley Centre was right to want live penguins in its shopping centre as part of the fun day? Leave a comment below or email Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk on email@example.com.