Hangzhou Zoo, situated in eastern China, has refuted claims suggesting that some of its bears might be humans dressed in costumes, following the circulation of a video featuring one bear standing upright on its hind legs.
In a statement released on Sunday, zookeepers spoke from the perspective of Angela, a Malaysian sun bear, to clarify the misunderstanding. They emphasized that bears are often associated with massive size and formidable strength; however, not all bears fit this description. The Malayan bears, to which Angela belongs, are actually quite petite and hold the distinction of being the smallest bears in the world.
The video in question depicted a sun bear standing on its hind legs, which sparked curiosity among social media users. Observers pointed out the bear’s slender legs and the folds of fur, which gave the creature an appearance akin to a human dressed in a bear costume.
The zookeepers’ statement sought to dispel any misconceptions, reassuring the public that Angela and her fellow Malayan bears were authentic members of their species. They hoped to educate visitors about the diversity found within the bear family, emphasizing that appearances can vary significantly among different bear species.
With this clarification, Hangzhou Zoo aims to reinforce its commitment to transparency and conservation efforts, highlighting the unique beauty and characteristics of each animal residing within its confines. The sun bear incident served as a reminder that while humans may be fascinated by the animal kingdom, it is essential to respect the individuality and natural behaviors of these magnificent creatures.
However, an audio recording circulating on WeChat featured a spokesperson from the zoo categorically denying any deception. He asserted that the animal in question was indeed real, and such misleading practices would never occur at a state-run facility. Additionally, he emphasized that the extreme summer temperature of 40°C (104°F) would make it impossible for a human wearing a fur bear suit to endure for more than a few minutes before collapsing.
In response to the circulating claims, the zoo has arranged visits for reporters on Monday to witness the bears firsthand and verify their authenticity.
Sun bears, being the size of large dogs, stand at a maximum of 1.3 meters (50 inches) tall on their hind legs, a stark contrast to grizzlies and other bear species that can reach up to 2.8 meters in height, as stated by the zoo.
It is worth mentioning that some Chinese zoos have faced accusations of attempting to pass off dogs that were dyed to resemble wolves or African cats, as well as donkeys painted to imitate zebras. These incidents have raised concerns about the credibility and ethical standards in the country’s zoo management.