Appeal for return of baby polar bear lantern

The missing baby polar bear with its mother
The missing baby polar bear with its mother

The caretaker of an adorable hand-crafted baby polar bear lantern that went missing from the weekend’s Auckland Lantern Festival is begging for its return.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation says no questions will be asked of anyone who helps with the missing items return – they just wish to reunite it with its mother.

“Like many of the major lanterns, this one was made for us in Zigong, in the Chinese province of Sichuan. It was then taken by road to a port in Chongqing, transported along the Yangtze River to Shanghai, and shipped to Auckland,” says Asia New Zealand Foundation director of culture Jennifer King.

“These lanterns are extremely difficult to replace. Whoever has the baby polar bear lantern won’t be able to display it without being noticed, because it is really is one of a kind. It would be sad for the mother bear to have to go on display by herself in the future.

“If you have the baby polar bear, you can call us on (09) 369-5014 to arrange a collection point, no questions asked. You’re not going to get in trouble – we just want the bear back.”

The lantern went missing from the ‘China on Ice’ lantern display, which also features a mother polar bear and six penguins.

Ms King says the lantern could not simply be plugged in at home, and warns it could be dangerous to do so.

Organisers say the polar bear is just the second lantern to be stolen in the festival’s 17-year history -- a pink flamingo was taken from the Christchurch Lantern Festival in 2005, which was later returned after a public appeal.

This year’s Christchurch Lantern Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday nights.