A pair of zoos in the U.K. have indirectly backed the Chinese zoo that found itself in hot water after a sun bear in one of its exhibits was suspected of being a person in costume.
Background: Hangzhou Zoo, located in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, has been accused of hiring people to pose as Malaysian sun bears, the smallest bears in the world. The allegations first made rounds in July after a bear called Angela was filmed standing on her hind legs with pants-like folds on her back.
Last week, an employee denied the accusations by arguing that it was impossible for a person to wear a supposed costume due to the hot weather. They also explained that sun bears do interact with people as they happen to have a mild temperament.
What the U.K. zoos are saying: After Western media picked up the story this week, two U.K. zoos with sun bears of their own confirmed that Hangzhou Zoo’s sun bears are real. Edinburgh Zoo shared a photo of one of its sun bears, Rotana, standing on her hind legs. Meanwhile, Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire shared a video of its sun bear Kyra in the same posture. She even walks briefly toward the screen, maintaining her balance.
The speculation surrounding Hangzhou Zoo is partly influenced by previous controversies involving Chinese zoos that have faked lions and gorillas. Hangzhou Zoo has invited reporters to visit Angela to verify her authenticity for themselves.