Tourists flock to Chinese zoo to see 'human-like' bear

AFP

Visitors are thronging a zoo in eastern China's Zhejiang province after a video of one of its bears went viral with some netizens suggesting she looked so human that she might be a staff member in a bear suit, local media reported on Tuesday.

Visitor numbers at Hangzhou Zoo have gone up by 30 per cent to around 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.

"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."

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

It was when Angela 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.

The zoo has sought to refute the rumour in posts on its official WeChat account and in interviews with local media, saying that 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, 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 that this incident shows how all zoo animals, including this bear, should be moved to sanctuaries and wildlife reserves that "prioritise 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," Jason Baker, PETA Asia Vice President, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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