THE first polar bear cub to be born in the UK for 25 years has emerged at Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.
The cub was born the week before Christmas but this is the first time it has been glimpsed by Park staff.
Mother Victoria and the cub’s enclosure will be closed to the public until later in the month to give the duo privacy.
Una Richardson, head keeper for carnivores, said she had to ‘pinch herself’ when she first laid eyes on the young bear.
She said: “Suddenly I saw a small, fluffy bundle next to her [Victoria] and had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t seeing things.
“It was a very special experience and one I’ll never forget.”
She added: “In the coming weeks we’ll also be able to find out if we have a little boy or girl and then we’ll decide on a name.”
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at the park, said the team are ‘thrilled’ with the new arrival.
He continued: “Some may wonder whether there is any point in breeding polar bears in zoos and the question deserves a serious answer.
“The change in the Arctic climate, specifically the shortening of the ice season, coupled with more direct human pressures, is having a noticeably detrimental effect on the species that is likely to result in many of the wild sub-populations disappearing.
“If we do not develop and maintain a genetically and behaviourally robust captive polar bear population, we will not have the option, should we require it, to use them to support what is likely to be a diminished and fragmented wild population in the future.”
The cub’s arrival has been welcomed by polar bear conservation charity Polar Bears International, whose executive director Krista Wright said, “We would like to congratulate Highland Wildlife Park on the successful birth of their polar bear cub.
“With polar bears facing grave threats from sea ice loss in a warming climate, it is important for facilities like Highland Wildlife Park to help educate visitors and involve them in solutions. This cub will serve as an ambassador for its wild cousins, inspiring people to care.”
Cameras have been place outside the Victoria’s den since early February for a forthcoming documentary, made for Channel 4 by STV Productions, about the park’s polar bear breeding programme.
Britain’s Polar Bear Cub airs on Channel 4 at 7pm on Sunday 18 March.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe