Hangzhou Zoo is rejecting suggestions that one of its bears may be a person in a costume after footage of the standing animal sparked accusations.
A zoo in China has denied that one of its sun bears is actually a human in a costume after footage of an animal standing on its hind legs raised online accusations of a furry imposter.
The video clip of the bear standing up and interacting with a group of people at the zoo in the eastern city of Hangzhou went viral on Chinese social media over the weekend.
Many social media users posted comments doubting the bear was real, with some claiming its bipedal stance and wrinkled skin suggested it was actually a human in a costume.
Hangzhou Zoo dismissed the rumours, saying on its social media Monday that the sun bears from Malaysia are smaller than other bears and look different, but are the real deal.
It came after the zoo issued a statement written from the bear’s perspective, saying its detractors “really don’t understand me”.
“The zoo’s director called me after work yesterday and asked if I was relaxed about finding a two-legged beast to replace me,” Sunday’s statement added.
“Some people thought the way I stand up looks too human… so I want to emphasize again: I’m a sun bear!”
WATCH: 🐻 A viral video of a black sun bear at Hangzhou Zoo in China’s Zhejiang province has some netizens convinced it is a human in disguise. The zoo has since spoken out to quash the rumours, maintaining that it is “definitely a real animal”. pic.twitter.com/hzHOZSnLPT
— TODAY (@TODAYonline) 31 July 2023
What is a sun bear?
Sun bears are native to Southeast Asia and are named for a patch of bright orange or cream-colored chest fur that stands out against the rest of their jet-black fur.
They are the size of large dogs, standing at most 1.3 meters (4 feet) tall on their hind legs, compared with up to 2.8 meters (9 feet) for grizzlies and other species, according to the zoo.
The sun bear is listed as a vulnerable species due to deforestation and the global wildlife trade.
Other zoos in China have previously been accused of stocking their enclosures with animals that are not what they seem – including a hairy dog that was passed off as an “African lion” and a pool filled with penguin-shaped balloons.