CRAIG BROWN: Is that a bear… or Lord Lucan in disguise?

A few years ago, my wife and I visited Stockholm Zoo. I’m a great one for cutting corners, so when the time came to leave, I was delighted to spot a door in a long corridor.

I felt sure it would fast-track us to the exit, so I pushed it open and we went through. As we looked around us, we knew in an instant that something wasn’t quite right. A few yards away, people were looking at us through bars. Some of them were pointing. We were inside a cage.

Around us, a dozen furry black-and-white creatures, the size of little monkeys, were following our every move. In my haste, I had led us straight into the lemur enclosure.

‘Let’s get out of here!’ hissed my wife. I struggled with the door, but, presumably to deter the lemurs from escaping, it had no handle.

Meanwhile, the people on the other side of the bars were delighted. Having approached the lemur cage with no great expectations of entertainment, they were clearly thrilled to watch the daffy antics of two real-life human beings.

The strange looking bear was seen standing on two legs and looking for food at the Hangzhou Zoo in eastern China

Lord Lucan was a British peer who disappeared after being suspected of murder

This traumatic event came back to me when I read the recent news of a bear, with the unlikely name of Angela, in the Hangzhou Zoo in eastern China.

A video went viral showing Angela the Bear standing on her hind legs and waving half-heartedly to the crowd. The internet abounded with rumours that Angela was not a bear at all, but a human being in an ill-fitting bear costume.

READ MORE: Bear-ly believable! Zoo is forced to deny its bears are ‘humans in disguise’ wearing elaborate costumes after video of the animals standing on two legs went viral in China 

To my untrained eye, Angela had all the hallmarks of a student intern, cheesed-off that the holiday job which had promised so much — ‘bright young graduate required’ — should end up like this.

It seemed obvious: the moment the bell signalled closing-time, she would pull off her sweaty bear costume, change into a T-shirt and jeans, and relax with a cigarette and Budweiser.

Hangzhou Zoo was keen to scotch such whisperings. ‘Angela is definitely not a human,’ insisted a spokesman, adding: ‘Our zoo is government-run, so that kind of situation would not happen.’

But suspicions continued to grow, and before long 20,000 visitors a day — 7,000 more than usual — were crowding into the zoo to study Angela. One visitor, Qian Ming, told local TV that he had travelled 150 miles overnight just to see Angela for himself.

The marketing departments of zoos the world over will no doubt follow the case of Angela the Bear with keen interest.

If visitor numbers can be boosted by rumours that one of the bears is really a human being, then why not spread it about that all the other animals are, in fact, people in disguise?

Certainly, my own brief appearance in a cage at Stockholm Zoo suggests to me that most visitors prefer to watch human beings.

The state-owned zoo responded to allegations the bear (pictured) was a human in a suit

The zoo in China said despite the odd looking fur and legs, ‘it is a real animal’

Lemurs are dull, sleepy creatures. All they can do is chew on an apple, or move from one branch to another, and then back again. Bears prowl around, or sleep. But in enclosed spaces, human beings have so much more to offer, which is why Love Island and Big Brother always prove so popular.

Is it possible that Angela the Bear is someone who loves being the centre of attention but who now, for one reason or another, doesn’t wish to be recognised?

Lord Lucan is the obvious suspect, but he would be 88 years old by now, and past waving at strangers.

Might it be our erstwhile and short-lived prime minister Liz Truss? As a former foreign secretary, she certainly has the contacts, and a spell dressed up as a bear in Hangzhou Zoo might give her just the holiday she wants.

On the other hand, it’s nearly 400 days since Nadine Dorries last spoke in the House of Commons, and three years and five months since she last held a surgery in her constituency. Could she be living it up as a bear in Hangzhou?

These days, celebrities who, for one reason or another, have come a cropper, are encouraged to ‘reinvent’ themselves. Who is Angela? With each day, the list of suspects grows ever longer.

The roly-poly singer Lizzo has been very quiet recently, but she might find the bear costume a bit of a squeeze.

Who is Angela? Phillip Schofield? Huw Edwards? The Duke of York? Who knows?

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