Just when you thought zoos couldn't get any more fascinating, a UK wildlife park found itself in the thick of a quirky controversy. Amidst buzz that a Chinese zoo might be employing a bloke in a bear suit to play the part of a sun bear, the Brits have joined the global conversation.
It started when Hangzhou Zoo found itself in the crosshairs of public scrutiny, with some folks swearing that Angela, their sun bear, was a hard-up chap sweating it out in a bear suit. You heard it right. A bear suit. Seems straight out of a comedy flick, doesn't it?
The bear, or the bloke, seemed to have a strangely saggy skin and proportions that didn't quite match up. The suspicions caught fire when Angela was caught on tape, all sociable and waving at the visitors. But Hangzhou Zoo was having none of it, firmly stating that Angela was a full-blooded sun bear, not a bloke in a furry onesie.
Not letting the controversy die down, the Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire stepped into the ring, sharing a clip of their sun bear, Kyra. And guess what? Kyra was doing the exact same thing, standing up, showing off her chest patch, just like our embattled Angela. The park justified this as a natural behavior for sun bears, either to get a better view of their surroundings or to respond to threats.
But what about Angela's rather sizeable derriere? Well, Dr. Ashleigh Marshall, an expert from Chester Zoo, confirms Angela is a bona fide bear. According to her, the saggy skin that has caused all the hullabaloo is nothing more than a survival adaptation that allows them to spin around quickly when attacked. Although she did admit, the saggy skin can give the impression of a bloke in a suit!
At the end of the day, Angela may be the most scrutinized sun bear ever. And whether she's a bear or a bloke, she's definitely pulling in the crowds. With the Daily Mail reporting a 30% jump in visitor numbers, it looks like Angela's fame has given Hangzhou Zoo a boost, and an increased interest in sun bears. A classic case of all publicity being good publicity, don't you think?
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