Thu, Oct 14, 2010
Philips in trouble for Singapore bear hoax
Bear-like creature spotted at Ulu Pandan Road
Click on thumbnail to view. Photos: ST, The Secret Little Agency & STOMP

SINGAPORE - Dutch electronics giant Philips is under investigation in Singapore after a marketing campaign for a new shaver triggered a search for a wild bear.

Philips issued a public apology after a fuzzy video of a bear-like creature was sent to a social-media website by a marketing firm on Wednesday, triggering a search by zoo officials -- armed with a tranquiliser gun -- and animal-welfare activists.

The "bear" was actually just a mascot pretending to rummage through a rubbish bin in Ulu Pandan, a residential and school district with pockets of thick foliage.

"When we found out about this yesterday afternoon, we worked very hard over the next few hours to clarify with all concerned parties that this was part of a social media marketing campaign," said an internal Philips staff memo made available to AFP.

"We were very sorry to have caused concern and inconvenience to the public." A police spokesman confirmed that "we are investigating an offence of public nuisance under section 268 of the penal code."

Anyone found guilty of such an offence can be punished with a fine of up to 1,000 Singapore dollars (750 US).

While most viewers dismissed the video as a joke, Singapore Zoo took no chances and dispatched a team armed with a tranquiliser gun.

Three members of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), a non-profit group that helps capture abused, illegally trafficked and stray animals, also took part.

The Straits Times, whose citizen journalism website STOMP received the hoax video, reported that four police officers showed up to offer assistance.

"That wasted a lot of our resources," ACRES executive director Louis Ng told AFP, adding that the stunt "really crossed the line" and caused fear among residents in the area.

Related links»
» Watch the video » Bear-like creature spotted at Ulu Pandan Road » Vandalised post boxes? It's a stunt » SingPost says sorry for vandalism stunt

A spokeswoman for Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which runs the zoo, said 12 personnel were sent to the scene.

"We're just glad that even though there's a lot of time and resources wasted, that there's no bear on the loose."

Singapore has no big mammals in its forest reserves and the zoo has no captive bears resembling the mascot.

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