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 impostor.
The video clip of the bear rearing up and interacting with a group of people at the zoo in eastern Hangzhou city went viral on Chinese social media over the weekend.
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Many social media users posted comments doubting that the bear was real, with some alleging that its bipedal posture and wrinkled skin suggested that it was actually a human in a costume.
Hangzhou Zoo dismissed the rumours, saying on Monday on its social media accounts that the sun bears from Malaysia are smaller than other bears and look different but are the real thing.
It came after the zoo issued a statement written from the bear’s perspective, saying its detractors “really don’t understand me”.
“The zoo director called me after work yesterday and asked if I’d been slacking off by 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 will stress again: I’m a sun bear!”
WATCH: 🐻 A viral video of a black sun bear at the Hangzhou Zoo in China's Zhejiang province has some netizens convinced that it is a human in disguise. The zoo has since spoken out to quell the rumours, maintaining that it is "definitely a real animal". pic.twitter.com/hzHOZSnLPT
— TODAY (@TODAYonline) July 31, 2023
What is a sun bear?
Native to Southeast Asia, sun bears are named for a patch of bright orange or cream-coloured chest fur that stands out against the rest of their jet-black coat.
They are the size of large dogs, standing at most 1.3 metres (4 feet) tall on their hind legs, compared with up to 2.8 metres (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 passed off as an “African lion” and a pool filled with penguin-shaped balloons.