A Viral Video of a Bear Walking on Two Legs Is Funny Until You Realize Why

Wildlife veterinarians say the oddly shaped animal is most likely the survivor of a bear bile farm in Asia.
May 12, 2015·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

When you first watch it, it’s hard to believe the animal in the video is anything more than an out-of-shape, poor-postured human walking around in a bear suit.

But it is a real-life Asiatic black bear with a propensity for walking on its two hind legs.

The reason it’s walking like that could be mistreatment, according to Eliza Jinata, the wildlife veterinarian who posted the video.

“Naturally, bears can stand on their hind legs, and they do this in the wild,” Jinata said in an email. “But the bear in this video is an anomaly because he seems very used to walking on his hind legs due to his small, malnourished body size.”

The video comes from the Laos Wildlife Rescue Center, where Jinata used to work. She said the center took in multiple Asiatic bears from the Lao Zoo—where many of the animals were kept in small cages and given a limited food supply.

“When the place still functioned as a zoo, he lived in a small cage and was fed a minimum amount of food every day,” Jinata said. “Now he lives in a nice open enclosure.”

Jill Robinson, a veterinarian and the founder of Animals Asia Foundation, believes the bear video is authentic, but its strange gait concerns her.

“Young Asiatic black bears do often adopt bipedal walking,” Robinson said. “But the posture of this bear appears to be abnormal compared with the young bears we've observed walking on their back legs.”

Jinata suspects the bear was brought to the zoo after being rescued from captivity, where it was most likely used as a bile bear. Bile bears are kept in small cages; their owners tap the animals’ gall bladders for their digestive fluid, which is used in traditional Asian medicine.

“The bile liquid contains ursodeoxycholic acid/ursodiol which has medicinal value, mainly to dissolve gallstones,” Jinata said. “Even though synthetic ursodiol is available as an alternative, some consumers prefer to use natural ursodiol which comes from the cruel practice of bear bile farms.”

That confinement, along with the malnourishment from his years in the zoo, have left the bear about half the size of a normal Asiatic bear, which is likely contributing to his odd walking style.

Else Poulsen, president of the Bear Care Group, said she didn’t believe the bear in the video was real until she saw a longer version that included footage of the animal down on all fours.

“The posture of the bear in this video differs from the posture of other standing/walking bears that most of us have experienced,” Poulsen said. “This does not mean that the bear in question is not real, possibly just different in gait perhaps due to a physical problem stemming from its time spent on a bile farm.”

An estimated 10,000 bears still live on bile farms in Laos, China, and Myanmar. But public opinion is changing in China, one of the largest markets for bear bile products.

“We understand through surveys and other feedback that the majority of people here do not want bear bile farming to continue,” Robinson told TakePart last year.

The animal advocacy group last year negotiated the freedom of 130 bears from a state-owned horticulture and landscaping company based in Nanning, China, and is in the process of freeing 38 bears in Quang Ninh province in Vietnam, where the government has agreed to completely end bear bile farming.