Visit the zoo and you can see all kinds of unique and interesting animals. But the sun bears at a Chinese zoo are catching the world’s attention for a very unusual reason: people think they’re actually just humans in disguise.
A video of a black sun bear from the Hangzhou Zoo in Eastern China, which reportedly originated on the Chinese site Weibo has gone viral internationally, sparking the imagination of conspiracy-minded viewers.
Because of the bear’s seemingly unusual posture and appearance as she stands on her hind legs, many became convinced that it wasn’t a real bear, but actually a person in a bear costume:
The bear does have an uncanny appearance in the video: the perfectly upright posture and folds of loose fur on its backside do make it look strangely like a human in a costume.
In a world where people are paying thousands to transform themselves into border collies, could it really be that a zoo replaced one of their animals with a human imposter?
The answer is no, according to the zoo, which had to respond to the bizarre rumors. They say that the sun bear, named Angela, is just a sun bear.
“I got a call after work yesterday from the head of the zoo asking if I was being lazy and skipped work today and found a human to take my place,” the zoo wrote in a statement from Angela’s perspective, according to CNN.
“Let me reiterate again to everyone that I am a sun bear – not a black bear, not a dog – a sun bear!”
The zoo also said that the skepticism likely comes from the public not understanding the sun bear, which is the smallest of all the bear species.
“When it comes to bears, the first thing that comes to mind is a huge figure and amazing power,” the zoo wrote, according to The Guardian. “But not all bears are behemoths and danger personified. We Malayan bears are petite, the smallest bear in the world.”
The Malayan sun bear is also a vulnerable species, threatened by deforestation and illegal hunting. Their population has declined by 35% over the past three decades.
“Not enough people know about sun bears – they are a very forgotten species,” wildlife biologist Wong Siew Te, founder of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC), told CNN.
“Most bear species can stand on their hind legs but sun bears stand up high to reach higher ground to investigate their surroundings so there is a purpose to why they do that. Female sun bears even hold their cubs with both hands and walk on their feet, very human like, so I guess that’s why people get mistaken.”
He also explained that while sun bears are usually “fat and round,” their skin can become loose when food is scarce.
If you still can’t believe it’s a real sun bear and not a human in a suit, a spokesperson for the zoo debunked the rumors by pointing out that a human would not be able to withstand the summer heat while wearing a giant fur suit, per Shanghai Daily.
A very unusual viral story! This bear may have confused viewers around the world, but the sun bear is a vulnerable species worth paying attention to.
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