The Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie is preparing to give a wintery welcome to a very special arrival this week.
23-month-old Walker the polar bear will be moving into his new Highland home on Friday to join resident polar bear Mercedes.
Walker, only the second polar bear in a public collection in the UK, is travelling from Rhenen Zoo in Holland where he was born in 2008. Douglas Richardson, Animal Collection Manager for the Highland Wildlife Park said,
“We were approached by the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) coordinator for polar bears and Rhenen Zoo. Walker’s mother, Huggies, is currently expecting another litter so because of this, Walker needs to find a new home before she retires to her cubbing den.
“The polar bear EEP coordinates the movement of animals around European zoo collections as part of the breeding programme. The decisions for these moves are largely based on the quality of the enclosures, and having one of the largest polar bear enclosures in the world I’m pleased to say that Highland Wildlife Park was top of the list for Walker’s new home’.
The current polar bear enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park spans four acres and has a natural pool and tundra-like environment. In preparation for Walker’s arrival, a specially designed natural extension has been added to the enclosure, which will allow keepers to initially manage Walker and Mercedes separately. The bears will be gradually introduced to each other with a view to them living together with both having permanent access to the whole facility.
‘Although polar bears are generally solitary animals that are happy being alone, they have an excellent memory. Mercedes has been with other bears before so we are expecting the introduction to go fairly smoothly.
‘Walker will not reach sexual maturity for at least another three years so should present no threat to Mercedes – being a teenager he does have a cheeky side, but we expect him to see Mercedes as a mother figure having been recently separated from his own mother. In the future, Walker will be moved to a new enclosure on the other side of the park and will be our future breeding male.’