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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Tourists flock to Chinese zoo to see ‘human-like’ bear

The sun bears from Malaysia are smaller than other bears and look different but are the real thing, the Hangzhou Zoo said on its social media account on Monday.

Visitors are thronging to a zoo in eastern China’s Zhejiang province after a video of one of its bears went viral alongside rumours she looks so human she may be a staff member in a bear suit.

Visitor numbers at Hangzhou Zoo have increased by 30 per cent to about 20,000 a day since a video of the Malayan Sun bear, named Angela, became a trending topic on Chinese social media over the weekend, Zhejiang province-based Chao News reported.

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The sun bears from Malaysia are smaller than other bears and look different but are the real thing, the Hangzhou Zoo said on its social media account on Monday.

“Some people think I stand like a person,” said the posting, written from the bear’s point of view. “It seems you don’t understand me very well.”

In the widely shared video posted last Thursday, the sun bear can be seen standing on her hind legs and stretching its neck out as it faces visitors watching from outside her enclosure.

“After seeing this bear standing up on the internet, I wanted to see how it looks in real life, so I came here,” said a man surnamed You, 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.”

It was when Angela the bear was standing up that some netizens said she looked like someone wearing a bear suit.

“If this is fake it deserves an Oscar for special effects,” said one user on the Weibo microblog platform.

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In posts on its official WeChat account and in interviews with local media, the zoo has refuted claims the bear is fake, saying Angela is “definitely not a human”.

“Our zoo is government-run, so that kind of situation would not happen,” a member of staff said, according to local media.

“The temperature in the summer is nearly 40 degrees [Celsius]. If you put on a fur suit, you certainly couldn’t last more than a few minutes without lying down.”

Animal rights group PETA said the incident showed all zoo animals, including this bear, should be moved to sanctuaries and wildlife reserves that “prioritize 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,” PETA’s Asia vice-president Jason Baker said in a statement on Tuesday.

Other Chinese zoos have been accused of trying to pass off dogs dyed to look like wolves or African cats, and donkeys painted to look like zebras.