Saturday, November 13, 2010

Today's lonely hearts cub? After 13 years all alone, Britain's only polar bear finally has a playmate


The start of a beautiful friendship? Formerly the only polar bear in Britain, Mercedes (left) meets new arrival Walker (right) at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie today

The only two polar bears in Britain were today formally introduced for the first time.

Mercedes, 28, was the only polar bear in the UK for 13 years until 23-month-old Walker arrived at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie earlier this month.

Keepers wanted the two bears to get to know each other gradually before being put in the same enclosure.

But today the waiting was over as the two animals enjoyed a spot of playtime together.

Playtime: The pair wasted no time in having some fun in their enclosure at the Scottish park

Walker moved to the Scottish park from Holland and has only seen Mercedes through a mesh fence for the last couple of weeks.

Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, said Mercedes was initially 'not overly impressed' by the appearance of the younger bear and expected her to try and teach the youth 'some manners'.

He said: 'We have definitely observed more of Walker's mischievous side since he has been given further space to explore, and he has been making full use of the pool, sliding down the hill and chasing rabbits in the main enclosure.

'When he is finally given access to Mercedes, we anticipate that he will be very keen to approach her, but since her initial interest when Walker first arrived, Mercedes has given him a wide berth.

'Walker, on the other hand, has grown in confidence and become more curious of her, so it will be interesting to see how they react to one another today.

'Walker may not necessarily get a warm reception at first as Mercedes is likely to stand her ground and try to teach the youth some manners, but we hope that after their initial meeting the bears will enjoy each other's company.'

New arrival: The 23-month-old Walker takes to the water for a swim

Junior: Walker is 26 years younger than his new friend Mercedes

Mercedes was the only polar bear in the UK for 13 years until Walker arrived from Holland's Rhenen Zoo earlier this month.

She was rescued from her native Canada in the 1980s and brought to Scotland after she was due to be shot because she had been roaming into town in search of food.

In Edinburgh, she was paired with a male named Barney and they produced two cubs. Barney died 13 years ago and Mercedes has been on her own ever since.

Her move to the Highland Wildlife Park last October was achieved after the £75,000 needed for the project was secured following a public appeal.

In preparation for Walker's arrival, a specially-designed natural extension has been added to Mercedes' enclosure.

When Walker nears sexual maturity, within the next two to three years, he will be moved to a new enclosure and will be the park's future breeding male.

Taking it easy: Walker relaxes as Mercedes climbs up to check on the newcomer

source: dailymail

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Grants For Single Moms