The “Ulu Pandan bear” – bedek or not?

14 Oct 2010 update: The hoax is confirmed, it is yet another Ad campaign gone wrong. Philips Electronics Singapore should compensate Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the police and ACRES for their immediate response and efforts to ensure public safety. See

—- beg —
More on the Ulu Pandan ‘bear’. STOMP has a better photo than the one ChannelNews Asia used (see below); and they all purportedly originate from a certain Mr Wilson Tay’s son (the dad a.k.a. STOMPer Philip3D a.k.a. YouTube’s Mr79coaster):

skitched-20101013-224454.jpg

So everyone is asking, ‘bedek’ or not?

Well, first the species – this looks like the black bear, without the distinctive hump of the grizzly. It appears to be too large to be the Malayan Sun Bear which stands at up to 1.5 metres. It is heartening that people have mentioned this Southeast Asian native species as a candidate though.

Singapore has a long history of non-native species, enough for Frederick Nutter Chasen of the Raffles Library and Museum to comment as early as 1925 that it “…must be remembered that very large numbers of mammals are imported into Singapore each year for trade purposes. Individuals very frequently escape and are just as often captured or shot and brought to the Museum with the laconic statement that they were obtained in Singapore”.

So local naturalists have learnt to be cautious. Several are sharing the news clip on Facebook but without comment – reserving judgement since the photos and video are unclear. So no one is sure thus far.

The police and ACRES are on the case and have apparently taken into account the onset of Halloween, celebrated increasingly in Singapore as yet another chance to dress up, party and eat chocolate. With the emphasis on dress up. A check with costumed stores drew a blank. Assuming they are not in on the caper as well although you would think the thought of having the police comb Ulu Pandan woods would induce a confession.

Are authentic costumes available? Well, Animatronic has a decent black bear costume, and Burt the Black Bear travels to various locations so perhaps he’s here to promote something.

According to STOMP, Wilson Tay says, “My son took this video on his handphone, and after many views we realised it could quite simply be a bear! After it caught sight of us and started heading our way, it made sense to drive off without hesitation.” That is a sensible strategy but the clinical nature of the video clip has many thinking twice. The cynical almost immediately dismissed it in no uncertain terms as a hoax. After all, assuming the quotes were not edited out of context, the audio on the track does not, *ahem*, bear out the quote. Here is a close-up of that video below, looped a few times so you can observe and decide for yourself:

I thought the manner and appearance of the ‘bear’s face when it looks at the eye-witnesses and then turns away was odd; the poor quality video was too concisely edited; they uploaded it to STOMP but do not report calling the police and the voice-over saying “Singapore, got bear one, ah” is too well placed and contradicts the statement in STOMP which says, “after many views we realised it could quite simply be a bear”. Ditto the second phrase. And the absence of faecal samples, claw marks and the like in the vicinity (according to ACRES).

Meanwhile, while we ponder, the ‘bear’ has gone onto twitter to taunt us, purportedly after a lady dropped her phone and ran off, screaming. Follow the bear, who isn’t resorting to puns so far, @UluPandanBear!

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