Visitors to the Royal Zoological Society’s Highland Wildlife Park will now have the chance to see the first Polar Bear cub born in the UK in 25 years!
Born in December, the cub has taken its first steps into the park’s outdoor enclosure, which had previously been closed to the public to allow mum, Victoria, the privacy she needed.
Staff members at the park are advising visitors that the cub may only be visible for small periods of time to begin with. Una Richardson, head keeper, said, “Having spent four months in her maternity den, Victoria quickly took the chance to go outside. Understandably, her cub has been more cautious and is still getting used to new sights, smells and sounds.”
“While the cub will become more confident and start to explore the large enclosure with Victoria, this will take time and they will always have access to their den for peace and quiet. There is no guarantee all of our visitors will see the cub at this early age, but they may be lucky.”
“There is huge interest in the park and seeing a Polar Bear cub will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people, particularly those traveling from around the world.”
Douglas Richardson, the park’s head of living collections, said, “Our pioneering captive Polar Bear management programme closely mirrors what happens in the wild and this birth shows our approach is working. This is vital because a healthy and robust captive population may one day be needed to augment numbers in the wild, such are the threats to the species from climate change and human pressures.”
“The reintroduction of Polar Bears would be an enormous task, but we need to have the option. While our cub will never be in the wild, there is a chance its offspring may be in decades to come.”
Chief Executive Barbara Smith added, “The birth of the first Polar Bear in the UK for a quarter of a century is a huge achievement for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the team at our Highland Wildlife Park. We are hopeful our cub will help to raise awareness of the dangers to Polar Bears in the wild. Collectively, we must do all we can to protect this magnificent species.”
Staff at the park expects to be able to discover the cub’s sex in April or May, when health checks will be possible.
The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is a carnivorous bear whose native range lies within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding landmasses.
The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Risks include: climate change, pollution in the form of toxic contaminants, conflicts with shipping, oil and gas exploration and development, and human-bear interactions including harvesting and possible stresses from recreational watching.