We are, thankfully, living in the midst of a bear renaissance. We give them awards for being chonky, dedicate movies to their drug-fueled escapades, and lust after them for haphazardly reviving family sandwich shops. We ask so much of bears, project so much onto them, that some of us apparently have trouble accepting when a bear is just a bear. Such was the case this week, when a Malayan sun bear named Angela was forced to defend herself against outrageous claims that she is actually a human in an elaborate costume.
Earlier in the week, a video surfaced on Weibo showing Angela, a resident of the Hangzhou Zoo in China, standing on her hind legs and holding her paws out in front of her body while facing zoo visitors. In the comments section, accusations flew, many conspiracists theorizing that the creature was in fact a person wearing a not-very-convincing bear suit. (There was a fair amount of fur sagging, especially around the butt.) A fair suspicion to have, especially considering a man just one country over recently took an uncanny border-collie costume out for a spin. And then, it must be said, her standing posture is very good — especially for a quadruped.
Soon enough, another clip surfaced of sweet Angela waving at onlookers, fueling further speculation that this gorgeous girl was in fact an ursine imposter.
Faced with blatant blasphemy, the zoo came to Angela’s defense, releasing a statement written from her point of view. “Some people think I look too human when I stand up,” she admitted, per the New York Times’ translation. “It seems you really don’t understand me. Previously, some visitors even thought I was too petite to be a bear! I want to emphasize again: I am a Malayan sun bear! Not a black bear! Not a dog! A Malayan sun bear!” Even though many bears are “fierce beasts,” Angela reasoned, not all of them are “massive and dangerous.”
One zoo employee also pointed out in a Chinese news outlet that temperatures in the area can get as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, making it virtually impossible for someone to wear a full-on furry costume for more than a few minutes and continue moving around.
As a species, sun bears do possess some unique traits that make them look alarmingly human. Since the footage of Angela spread on social media, several animal experts have explained that this is the smallest bear species in the world — most are about the size of a dog. Also, their primary defense mechanism against predators is a bunch of extra skin, which bags and wrinkles around their hips much like a too-big bear costume might do on a lanky zoo employee. Having so much spare coat is supposed to help them wriggle away from animals who might hunt them, but unfortunately it does not offer much protection from social-media users intent on body-shaming. I will admit these are weird little guys, but take a closer look and you will find that, actually, they behave very much like animals. Slightly wonky-looking animals, sure, but cute ones nonetheless:
Anyway, now that we have ample evidence that Angela and her fellow sun bears are in fact real bears, shall we leave them to their tree-climbing and move on with our days? Let Angela enjoy her cucumbers in peace.