Video of a sun bear standing on its hind legs was circulated on social media.
A zoo in eastern China has rejected suggestions that some of its bears were people dressed in costume after videos of a Malaysian sun bear standing on its hind legs – looking eerily human – went viral, fueling rumours. and conspiracy theories on Chinese social media.
In a statement written from the perspective of a sun bear named “Angela,” Hangzhou zoo officials said people “didn’t understand” the species.
“I’m Angela the sun bear – I got a call after work yesterday from the manager of the zoo asking if I was lazy and skipped work today and found a human to take my place,” the statement read.
“Let me repeat to everyone again that I am a sun bear – not a black bear, not a dog – a sun bear!”
In videos shared on the popular Chinese microblogging site Weibo, a sun bear was seen standing upright on a rock and peering out of its enclosure.
Many Weibo users noted the animal’s upright posture, as well as folds of loose fur on its back – making the bear look somewhat odd and fueling speculation that a human imposter might be masquerading instead.
It might sound like an unlikely game. But zoos in China have previously courted public ridicule for trying to pass off pets like dogs as wild animals.
In 2013, a zoo in central Henan province angered visitors by trying to leave one Tibetan Mastiff dog like a lion. Visitors who had approached the enclosure expressed shock when they heard the “lion” barking.
Visitors to another Chinese zoo in Sichuan province were shocked to discover a golden retriever sitting in a cage labeled as an African lion enclosure.
Sun bears are native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and are the world’s smallest bear species. Adult bears stand at heights of up to 70 centimeters tall (28 inches) and weigh between 25 and 65 kilograms (55 to 143 pounds), experts say.
They do not hibernate and are also characterized by amber crescent-shaped patches of fur on their chests and long tongues, which help them extract honey from hives – earning them the name “beruang madu” (honey bear) in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Their number in nature is threatened by poachers and deforestation, which has decreased by 35% over the past three decades, according to conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSCC) in Sabah, Malaysia.
Sun bears are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).