It's been a quarter of a century but a polar bear cub has now been born in Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.
Having given birth over Christmas 2017, the cub was only seen by visitors for the first time in March as the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s park gave Mumma Bear all the privacy she needed with her newborn.
Douglas Richardson, the Park’s ‘Head of Living Collections’ commented on how important this birth is to the future of the species:
“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.”
To honor this new arrival, we have put together some fun facts so you know what to expect as the little one grows older:
- We recently told you more about the planet’s largest land-based mammals - the regal elephant - but did you know that polar bears are in fact the largest land-based carnivore? In fact, fully grown polar bears can measure over 2.5m long and weigh a staggering 680kg! We don’t know about you, but at Koala Chess Art HQ we are more than happy to marvel at their beauty from a distance...
- And what beauties they are with their white coat… wait what? It’s not white? Nope - it’s actually transparent with a hollow core that reflects light. This means they can blend in with their surroundings, becoming a very deadly predator.
- But it’s not only their coat that helps them catch their prey - they also have a fantastic sense of smell. Did you know that they can detect a seal in the water even under a metre of compacted snow? If that wasn’t impressive enough, they can even smell them from almost a kilometre away! Now that’s a great nose!
- Now, despite these impressive traits, these animals are classified as ‘vulnerable’ thanks to climate change. Rising global temperatures means their ice - their home - melts earlier and forms later each year. This disruption to their habitat restricts their time to hunt food, and leaves our favourite ‘sea bears’ (their latin name) hungry, which is when population numbers dwindle.