Hangzhou Zoo was forced to deny the rumours on social media on Monday after footage of the animal went viral and social media users were quick to point out its human characteristics.
In posts on its official WeChat account and in interviews with local media, the zoo said the bear, named Angela, is “definitely not a human”.
What y’all think? Bear not even close to 260lbs. pic.twitter.com/K2WxoqUlUl
— Bradley Martyn (@BradleyMartyn) August 1, 2023
Another viral clip has since emerged showing the bear standing on its two legs as it waved to visitors.
People are now flocking to the zoo, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, to catch a glimpse of Angela.
Regarding speculation she is a human in costume, a member of staff at Hangzhou Zoo reportedly told local media: “Our zoo is government-run, so that kind of situation would not happen.
“The temperature in the summer is nearly 40 degrees, if you put on a fur suit, you certainly couldn’t last more than a few minutes without lying down.”
Malayan sun bears are smaller than other bears and look different but are the real thing, Hangzhou Zoo said on Monday.
Visitor numbers at the zoo have gone up by 30 percent to around 20,000 since footage of Angela began trending on Chinese social media over the weekend, Zhejiang province-based Chao News reported.
“After seeing this bear standing up on the internet, I wanted to see how it looks in real life, so I came here,” said one man, who said he had only half-believed the video he saw online, Chao news reported.
“After we saw the video on the Internet, we specially took the high-speed train from Suzhou to come over to see the bear,” another visitor, Qian Ming, told a Hangzhou TV station. “We travelled overnight last night to get here. The bears are so cute.”
In the widely shared video posted last Thursday, the Sun bear can be seen standing on its hind legs and stretching its neck out as it faces visitors watching from outside its enclosure, before sitting back down.
“If this is fake it deserves an Oscar for special effects,” said one user on the Weibo microblog platform.
Animal rights group PETA said that this incident shows how all zoo animals, including this bear, should be moved to sanctuaries and wildlife reserves that “prioritise the well-being of animals”.
“These highly intelligent and social beings deserve to live freely and thrive in their natural environment, not used as mere spectacles for human entertainment,” Jason Baker, PETA Asia Vice President, said in a statement on Tuesday.