RZSS Highland Wildlife Park has announced that the first polar bear cub to be born in the UK for 25 years has emerged from its den.
The birth had been confirmed the week before Christmas after high-pitched noises were heard coming from the maternity den. However, mum Victoria had been very protective and the pair were left alone to bond. Born blind and weighing little more than a guinea pig, the cub is now able to see and is the size of a Scottish terrier, having fed exclusively on Victoria’s fat-rich milk over the past 12 weeks.
The cub’s emergence was caught on camera for a forthcoming documentary, made for Channel 4 by STV Productions, about the breeding and birth of the cub. Britain’s Polar Bear Cub will be aired at 7pm on Sunday 18 March.
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.”
Victoria and her cub’s enclosure will remain closed to the public until late March to ensure privacy. Father to the cub, Arktos, can still be viewed in the enclosure he shares with Walker, the park’s other male.
For more information go to www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk