First UK polar bear cub in 25 years emerges

Image copyright STV Productions/Channel 4

The first polar bear cub to be born in the UK for 25 years has emerged at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig.

Previously, the birth had only been confirmed by high-pitched noises heard from the maternity den.

The cub was born in the week before Christmas, after its mother Victoria mated with Arktos, one of two male polar bears at the park.

Victoria’s enclosure has been closed to the public.

It is expected to be reopened to park visitors later this month.

The first image of the cub is from footage filmed by STV Productions for a Channel 4 documentary.

Image copyright RZSS/HWP
Image caption Polar bears Victoria, left, and Arktos

Una Richardson, head keeper responsible for carnivores, said: “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.

“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.

“Having only been able to hear sounds from inside the den before, we can now be certain Victoria has had one cub rather than two and we couldn’t be happier as this is the moment we have been working towards and really looking forward to.

“Both mum and cub appear to be doing well, though this is still a sensitive time and they need as much peace and quiet as possible. Our keeper activity at their enclosure will remain at a minimum for the next couple of weeks, after which visitors will be able to see Victoria and our wonderful new arrival.

“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.”

Bear necessities: A brief guide to polar cubs

  • Polar bears mate between March and June
  • Females normally give birth to one or two cubs in November or December
  • Newborn polar bear cubs are blind, about 30cm long and weigh little more than a guinea pig. They only open their eyes when they are a month old
  • Victoria, who was born in 1996 at Rostock Zoo in Germany, previously gave birth at Aalborg Zoo in Denmark in 2008. She arrived at RZSS’ Highland Wildlife Park in March 2015
  • Male bear Arktos arrived at the park in April 2012 from Hanover Zoo in Germany. He was born in 2008 at Vienna Zoo
  • Arktos shares an enclosure with another male, Walker, whose own time as a cub was the source of a controversy over the BBC’s Frozen Planet documentary

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