Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Common Name:Polar Bear Family:Usridae
Latin Name:Ursus maritimus Diet:Carnivore
Type:Carnivores Habitat:Tundra
Native To:Artic and North America Social Unit:Individual
IUCN Red List Status:Vulnerable    

Polar Bear

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

We currently have two male polar bears in our collection. Walker (below), a young male polar bear arrived from Rhenen Zoo in the Netherlands in October 2010; he was born there on 7 December 2008. In April 2012 we received another male called Arktos from Hanover Zoo. He was born on 30 November 2007. The two boys have become inseparable and have formed a very close bond.

On 25 March 2015 we welcomed the UK's only female polar bear all the way from Aalborg Zoo in Denmark. Her name is Victoria and she was born on 12 December 1996 at Rostock Zoo in Germany. 

Victoria has her very own large custom-built enclosure, which is completely separate to male polar bears Walker and Arktos, who have a large bachelor enclosure at the other side of the Park; this allows us to mimic the behaviour of polar bears in the wild who only come together to mate. 

Victoria's enclosure features a pond and soft areas of ground, as well as plenty of space for her to explore.

In total, Highland Wildlife Park devotes more space to polar bears (over four hectares, or 10 acres, in total) than any other zoological institution in the world, and the successful work of the Park in enclosure design and development is being mirrored elsewhere.

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Polar Bear - Walker.jpgPolar bears in the Wild

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are found around the North Pole, Alaska, arctic Canada, Greenland, Scandanavia, and Russia. The polar bear's scientific name means "sea bear". They are excellent swimmers--their feet are partially webbed and their fur is water-repellent. Their environment is extremely cold but they are able to withstand it. The polar bear's entire body is covered in fur, even the bottom of its paws. The polar bear's main food source is the seal, but when they are not available, polar bears will prey on young walrus, beluga whales, fish, and seabirds. In the summer months, they will also eat lichens, moss, and berries. Polar bears are under threat due to the loss of their habitat. They need sea ice to be able to move to different hunting grounds, but global warming is causing the ice to melt earlier each year. This means that the polar bear has less time to hunt and put on weight for their summer fast.


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As many people remember we originally had a female polar bear called Mercedes from Edinburgh Zoo. She was the only polar bear in a UK zoo until Walker arrived in November 2010. Mercedes had been in Edinburgh Zoo since 1984. She was rescued from her native Canada after she was scheduled to be shot. Unfortunately, she roamed into a nearby town in search of food and, as they are dangerous animals, this behaviour had to be discouraged. Initially, she was captured and the number "39" was painted on her coat which allowed her to be tracked. On her third visit the decision was made to shoot her. Luckily, one of our Society's life members enlisted the help of her cousin, a former Minister of Fisheries in Canada, who helped RZSS save her and provide a new home. Mercedes, the car company, assisted with the costs of her transport, hence her name.

Mercedes' keepers provided the highest possible standards of care and whilst her enclosure was adequate to meet her needs, public perception had always been that they would like to see her in a larger enclosure.

In October 2009 therefore, Mercedes was re-housed in a brand new £300,000 home here at the Highland Wildlife Park where we created the largest polar bear enclosure in Europe. The enclosure which now houses Walker, features a large natural pool set in over four acres of land, which is typical of the polar bear's tundra environment. Visitors can watch the bears from both the main reserve and from a viewing platform at the top of the hill, which will provide a unique insight into the natural behaviour of this wonderful and yet sadly endangered mammal. 

To celebrate the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's 100th birthday in 2009, we launched our Centenary Fundraising Appeal to raise £75,000 to create this enclosure for Mercedes. The Society was delighted that the army pledged to contribute their time and machinery to develop the enclosure. This meant that our new £300,000 enclosure only cost the Society £75,000, which was raised through donations.

We are grateful to our members, adopters, supporters and visitors for generously donating to this appeal. On 31 September 2009 we surpassed our target and closed the appeal.

Breeding programme category: EEP

IUCN Red List category: Vulnerable





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Opening Times

July. to Aug.

10.00 am - 6.00 pm

Apr, May, June, Sept, Oct.

10.00 am - 5.00 pm

Nov. to Mar.

10.00 am - 4.00 pm