Footage of a Malayan bear standing on its hind legs has led to speculation on social media that it may be a human in a costume.
The zoo in Zhejiang, in eastern China, strongly denies this. According to the zoo, it’s really a bear – just a little smaller and different from the ones you’re used to.
“Some people think I stand like a human, and you don’t seem to understand me well,” Hangzhou Zoo wrote on its official social media profile on Sunday – from the perspective of the bear in the video, named Angela.
“Tourists used to think I was too small to be a bear. But I emphasize again: I am a Malay bear! Not a black bear! Not a dog! A Malay bear!”
The video of the bear standing up and interacting with tourists went viral on social media after a 15-second video was shared on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, on July 27.
Millions of people watched the video and viewers questioned whether it might not be a person in a costume disguised just like a bear, if you look at the behavior and the folds in the fur that look like clothes that don’t fit well .
An expert told NBC News that the speculation is unfounded. “It’s definitely a Malay bear,” said Wong Siew Te, a biologist and founder of the Malay Bear Conservation Center in Malaysia. He has been researching these animals for 25 years.
“Malay bears are very humane. They stand like people and walk like people,” he said. According to him, the mothers carry their babies in their arms and walk on their hind legs.
“I never thought it was a person in disguise,” says Gino Liu, who has visited the zoo. “It’s a bear, but it really looks like a human.”
The zoo declined a phone interview with NBC News, saying they only welcome in-person interviews. In an audio recording shared by Chinese state media, an employee denied the rumours. According to him, people will “only be able to survive for a few minutes in a wool outfit” in temperatures of around 40 °C in the summer.
Malay bears are the smallest bears. They stand about 1.3 meters tall, while other species can stand up to 2.8 meters tall on their hind legs, according to the zoo.
The World Wildlife Fund said the number of Malayan bears has fallen by 30% in the past 30 years. They are indicated as a vulnerable species on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Other zoos in China have previously been condemned after painting dogs to look like wolves.
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