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Hangzhou Zoo denies sun bears are humans in costume

Sun bear
ITV Debunking the bear

In a video that gained viral attention, a sun bear at a Chinese zoo was seen waving to visitors, prompting speculation on social media about whether the bear was actually a human in a bear costume. CNN’s Ivan Watson conducted an interview with a sun bear expert to discuss the authenticity of the bear and the significant threats that the species is currently confronting.

The expert likely provided insights into the distinctive characteristics of sun bears, disproving the idea of the bear in the video being a human. The discussion aided in shedding light on the conservation challenges faced by sun bears due to habitat loss and other factors endangering their survival.

NBC News

The intrigue surrounding the incident revolves around a sun bear named Angela at Hangzhou Zoo in Zhejiang province, China. A video of Angela standing on her hind legs and displaying human-like behavior went viral on the social media platform Douyin (similar to TikTok). Commenters speculated whether the bear could be a person wearing a bear suit. This was due to its upright posture and fur folds resembling clothing. Another video angle showed the bear appearing to wave at zoo visitors. These videos garnered millions of views.

Despite the speculation, Hangzhou Zoo officials refuted the claims and affirmed that their bears are genuine animals. However, the controversy led to a surge in public interest. Attendance at the zoo increased by 30%, as people were drawn to see Angela for themselves.

Why are sun bears in captivity?

  1. Conservation and Education: Some zoos and wildlife facilities aim to educate the public about endangered species and promote conservation efforts. Sun bears are listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, and other threats. Captive sun bears can serve as ambassadors that raise awareness about the challenges these animals face in the wild.
  2. Research: Captive sun bears can provide opportunities for researchers to study their behavior, physiology, and other aspects of their biology. This information can contribute to a better understanding of the species and aid conservation efforts.
  3. Breeding Programs: Some zoos and conservation organisations participate in breeding programs for endangered species, including sun bears. These programs aim to maintain a genetically diverse and healthy captive population. They also aim to reintroduce individuals into the wild if suitable habitats are restored.
  4. Rescue and Rehabilitation: When sun bears are rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, they are placed in captivity for rehabilitation and care. They may find a permanent home in captivity due to injuries.

With all the internet speculation and hype aside, what do you think? Is this a real sun bear or is it a zoo employee in costume?

Sun bear in chinese zoo
Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus malayanus) Wich’yanan L

Dig your claws into some fun facts about sun bears

  • Smallest Bears: Sun bears are the smallest species of bears in the world, making them quite unique. They usually weigh between 60 to 150 pounds (27 to 68 kilograms) and stand around 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimetres) tall at the shoulder.
  • Special Markings: Sun bears have a distinctive “U”-shaped marking on their chest, which is often referred to as the “sun mark.” This marking is unique to each bear and helps researchers identify individuals.
  • Long Tongues: These bears have exceptionally long tongues, which can be up to 10 inches (25 centimetres) in length. They use these long tongues to extract insects and honey from trees.
  • Tree-Climbing Experts: Sun bears are excellent climbers and spend a lot of time in trees. Their curved and sharp claws help them navigate through trees, making them skillfull at finding food and escaping predators.
  • Noisy Communicators: Sun bears communicate using various vocalisations, including high-pitched whines, growls, and grunts. These sounds help them express their emotions and communicate with other bears.

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