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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 20:43 GMT
Polar bears turn green in Singapore
Green polar bear Inuka at Singapore zoo
Also available in white: Singapore's zoo's green polar bear, Inuka

A perplexing sight awaits visitors to the polar bear enclosure at Singapore zoo.

The bulky Arctic beasts - usually clad in a thick coat of snow-white hair - have started turning green.

A zoo spokesman ended speculation that the animals had been spray-painted in camouflage colours.

The green colouring is apparently the work of algae which have found a new home in the bears' translucent hair shafts.

"The harmless algae is the result of Singapore's warm and humid climate," spokesman Vincent Tan told the Associated Press news agency.

Jolly green giants

Two bears at the zoo have been afflicted by the algae so far - Sheba and her 13-year-old son, Inuka.

Sheba was treated first, the spokesman said.

Her coat was bleached with a hydrogen-peroxide solution a fortnight ago and is returning to its original colour.

Inuka has to endure the bright green splotches on its back, legs and ears until it is treated, too.

Polar-bear hairs usually appear white because they reflect the light around them.

The BBC's Lynne Morrall
"The green colour is a result of algae growing in the hair shaft"

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