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First birthday for UK’s only polar bear cub

The first polar bear cub to be born in the UK for 25 years celebrated his first birthday at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park yesterday.

Born on 18 December 2017, Hamish took his first steps outside in March and has since attracted over 200,000 visitors to the Park, almost doubling previous records. At birth, polar bear cubs are estimated to weigh up to 700 grams, although Hamish is currently estimated to weigh 120 kilograms.

Una Richardson, head carnivore keeper at Highland Wildlife Park, said: “Our mischievous cub has grown so much since he took his first steps outside and is rapidly catching up to his mum, Victoria, although he still has some way to go until he reaches his full adult size, as male polar bears can weigh up to 800 kilograms.”

In the wild, polar bear cubs will stay with their mothers for two to three years, learning key survival skills before leaving to start their own families. When Hamish is ready to leave Victoria, it is hoped he will play a role in the European endangered species breeding programme.

Barbara Smith, RZSS chief executive, said: “Hamish’s arrival has helped us to highlight the threats that many wild animals are facing and the small changes we can make to really make a big difference.

“As a wildlife conservation charity, we believe we have a duty to help protect this magnificent species which is predicted to significantly reduce in numbers over the next 40 years as the reduction in sea ice, the polar bear’s primary seal hunting platform, continues.

“Our polar bears are part of the European Endangered Species Programme and we hope when Hamish is older, he will help to reinforce the captive population, which may be needed in the future to help support and restore a markedly reduced and fragmented wild population.”

For further information about RZSS conservation projects in Scotland and around the world, visit rzss.org.uk.

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