Chinese Zoo Denies Speculation Its Sun Bears Are 'Humans In Disguise'

Images of the animals standing upright caused some to wonder what was going on at the Hangzhou Zoo.

BEIJING (AP) — A zoo in eastern China is denying suggestions some of its bears might be people in costumes after photos and video of the animals standing like humans circulated online.

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

“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.”

An employee who answered the phone at the zoo declined to talk about the bears but said visits were being arranged for reporters Monday to see them.

Two sun bears play at Hangzhou Zoo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Aug 1, 2023.
Two sun bears play at Hangzhou Zoo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, Aug 1, 2023.
Future Publishing via Getty Images

Internet users questioned whether the zoo’s bears were real after photos circulated showing one standing upright on slender hind legs.

“Because of the way they stand, some people online question whether they are ‘humans in disguise,’” the newspaper Hangzhou Daily said.

Sun bears are the size of large dogs, standing at most 1.3 meters (50 inches) tall on their hind legs, compared with up to 2.8 meters (9 feet) for grizzlies and other species, according to the zoo.

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.

The bear publicity has been a boon for the zoo, which has seen its attendance numbers rise by 30% to about 20,000 a day since the rumors started circulating, according to The Guardian.

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