- RZSS/Alex Riddell
- A picture has been released of the first polar bear cub born in the UK in 25 years.
- The as-yet-unnamed cub was born in December and recently left its mother’s den.
- Keepers at the Scottish conservation park where it lives will find out its sex in the coming weeks, and then the general public will be able to visit.
We’ve just got our first look at the first polar bear cub born in the UK in 25 years – and it’s adorable.
The yet-to-be-named bear was born around in December 2017 to Victoria, a 21-year-old female from Germany, and Arktos, a nine-year-old male from Austria, at Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland.
It is now venturing outside of its mother’s den for the first time, and images have been captured by cameras installed by STV Productions for a documentary due air on Channel 4.
“Victoria had started to come outside by herself for short periods to eat, drink and roll around in the snow, so we knew her cub would soon follow her but we couldn’t be sure when,” head keeper responsible for carnivores Una Richardson said.
“I was visiting Victoria on Sunday morning to check she had fresh water and to continue slowly reintroducing food to her diet, after four months during which she lived solely off the fat reserves she built up before she entered her den.
“Suddenly I saw a small, fluffy bundle next to her and had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t seeing things. It was a very special experience and one I’ll never forget. We also have motion-sensitive cameras safely positioned near Victoria’s den and we were delighted to see we had captured her cub’s first few steps outside.”
Here’s the full image:
- Channel 4
Until it emerged, park keepers hadn’t been able to see it, or even confirm how many cubs Victoria had. It’s also not clear at this point if the cub is male or female. But keepers should be able to find out in the next few weeks, after which point it will be given a name.
Visitors will then also be able to finally see it for themselves.
Polar bear cubs are around 30cm long when they are born and weigh about as much as a guinea pig. They are blind and entirely dependent on their mother’s milk to survive their early months.
Baby polar bears have high infant mortality rates, so the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs the park, held off announcing the birth until the risk first weeks had passed.
The last polar bear to be born in the UK were twins born at Flamingo Land in Yorkshire in 1992.
Since then, the UK has imported all its bears. Victoria was born in Germany and spent time in Copenhagen, where she gave birth in 2008, before coming to Scotland.
Artkos was born in Vienna Zoo, Austria, in 2008. He too spent time in Germany, and came to the UK in 2012, when he was four. Victoria is the only female polar bear in the UK, though there are several males.
Here’s audio of the cub in its mother’s the den:
Krista Wright, executive director of conservation charity Polar Bears International, 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.”