It’s a startling sight: a female bear, bald all over her body except for a crown of hair on her head and a few tufts on her chest. Poor Dolores must be feeling naked after losing her fur coat — an ordeal made all the more un-bear-able as thousands of people crowd a German zoo to get a peek at her.
Dolores isn’t the only furless bear at this Leipzig zoo — all three females have mysteriously lost their coats, while the males remain unaffected.
Experts say the hair loss could be caused by a genetic defect. On top of losing their coats, the female bears are suffering from rashes and skin inflammation. Zoo workers rub the bears with ointment to relieve itching.
“They have been suffering from this for a few years now and are in treatment. It goes through different phases of intensity,” Leipzig Zoo spokesperson Melanie Ginzel told German news source The Local. She says that experts are investigating the problem.
At this time of year, as winter closes in, these South American Andean bears would normally be growing a thick coat to keep them warm. But according to Ginzel, the bald bears won’t suffer through the cold despite their wrinkly vulnerability.
“The bears are allowed to move where they please, and have a warm interior enclosure they can go to any time.”