A zoo in China has denied that its bears are actually people dressed in costumes after photos and videos went viral of a bear standing on its hind legs in a human-like stance, according to The Associated Press.
In footage of the bear, a zoomed-in image also showed the animal with pant-like folds on its rear, prompting Weibo users to question whether the zoo was actually using “humans in disguise,” the Hangzhou Daily reported, per AP.
But Hangzhou Zoo pushed back on Monday, insisting that their Malaysian sun bears were the genuine article.
“Some people think I stand like a person,” the zoo said in a social media post, speaking in the animal’s voice, per AP. “It seems you don’t understand me very well.”
Part of the zoo’s denial hinged on the hot temperatures on the day of the recording — around 104°F, according to the Chinese media outlet Phoenix New Media.
A person wearing a realistic bear suit would not be able to tolerate that heat, the zoo said, per the media outlet.
The zoo also said that sun bears — the smallest species of bear — have a particularly mild temperament which means it is not unusual for them to stand up to interact with visitors.
An employee at the zoo refused to speak with AP on the topic but said visits were being arranged for reporters to come to see the animals for themselves, the news agency reported.
Although the zoo’s public denial might seem strange, there is a peculiar history in China of zoos passing off humans or other animals as entirely different species.
MailOnline reported in 2019 that two zoo workers at Yancheng Wild Animal World in Changzhou dressed in gorilla costumes and jumped around the enclosure.
After visitors complained, the zoo said it was an April Fool’s Day prank, per MailOnline.
And in 2013, a zoo in Louhe, China, tried to pass off a dog as a lion. The “African lion” on display was actually a Tibetan mastiff, with dogs also being placed in the zoo’s wolf cage, CNN reported. The news outlet also said the leopard enclosure at the zoo contained a white fox.