When a sun bear was pictured standing on its hind legs in a Chinese zoo, it caused an internet sensation, with some suggesting it was a human in an animal costume.
Now, a UK wildlife park has stepped forward to offer some insights – saying this behaviour is not as unusual as had been assumed.
Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire, home to two sun bears named Kyra and Indera, released a statement addressing the bears' peculiar behaviour, which has left internet users fascinated and concerned.
It said standing upright allows sun bears to gain “a greater view of their surroundings or [to] smell far-off objects”.
This posture can also be used to intimidate potential threats, as the chest patch of the bear – a symbol of aggression – becomes visible when it stands.
“Sun bears might look human when they stand, but they actually have the natural behaviour of standing on their hind feet,” the park said.
It released a tongue-in-cheek video of one of its own animals, saying: “We can confirm that Kyra is still a sun bear …”
Kyra and Indera have become visitor favourites at the UK park due to their “quirky behaviour”, charming visitors with their antics.
The park's statement came in response to a peculiar episode halfway around the world involving a sun bear named Angela, at Hangzhou Zoo in China.
Angela rose to international fame for her ability to stand on her hind legs and wave at visitors, leading to speculation that she was a human in a bear costume.
Hangzhou Zoo recorded a remarkable increase in visitors after Angela's rise to fame. Between February and March 2023, the daily visitor count rose from an average of 15,000 a day to 20,000.