- RZSS/Alex Riddell
- A mother polar bear gave birth in the Scottish Highlands last month.
- Staff at her enclosure announced the birth after the cub survived its precarious first few weeks of life.
- Nobody can get close enough for pictures yet, but there’s audio recorded.
- If it lives, the cub (or cubs) will emerge in the springtime.
- No polar bears have been born in the UK since 1992.
A baby polar bear has been born in the United Kingdom for the first time in 25 years, and has survived the dangerous first few weeks of its life.
The cub was born around December 18 to Victoria, a 21-year-old female from Germany, and Arktos, a nine-year-old male from Austria.
The birth took place in a den at the Highland Wildlife Park in the Scottish Highlands. Staff at the park have not intruded on Victoria and her offspring because disturbances could upset the new family.
As a result, they haven’t been able to take pictures, confirm the baby’s gender, or even say for sure whether there is more than one cub in there.
But they did get close enough to record a brief audio clip of the baby bear(s), which you can listen to here:
Polar bear cubs are around 30cm long when they are born and weigh about as much as a guinea pig. They are blind and entirely dependent on their mother’s milk to survive their early months.
Any offspring aren’t expected to emerge from the den until they’re about three months old, and weigh around 11kg, the same as a small dog. Here’s what they look like when that happens:
Baby polar bears have high infant mortality rates, so the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs the park, held off announcing the birth until the risk first weeks had passed.
In a press release, the society said:
“While we are absolutely thrilled, we are not celebrating prematurely as polar bear cubs have a high mortality rate in the first weeks of life due to their undeveloped immune system and the mother’s exaggerated need for privacy, with any disturbance risking the cub being killed or abandoned.
“We will continue to monitor Victoria and very much hope for the best possible news when she emerges around March.
“Until then, Victoria’s enclosure will be closed to the public and keeper activity will be at a minimum to give her offspring every chance of survival.”
The last polar bear to be born in the UK were twins born at Flamingo Land in Yorkshire in 1992.
Since then, the UK has imported all its bears. Victoria was born in Germany and spent time in Copenhagen, where she gave birth in 2008, before coming to Scotland.
Artkos was born in Vienna Zoo, Austria, in 2008. He too spent time in Germany, and came to the UK in 2012, when he was four.
Victoria is the only female polar bear in the UK, though there are several males.