Jan. 3 (UPI) — The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland confirmed a polar bear has been born in the U.K. for the first 25 years.
Staff at Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie, Scotland confirmed at least one cub was born after hearing distinct high-pitched sounds from resident female polar bear Victoria’s maternity den.
“We first heard promising noises in the week before Christmas and these have now continued into the new year. Because we don’t have sight inside her cubbing box we can’t be sure if Victoria has had more than one cub but we can confirm the birth,” the park’s head keeper of carnivores Una Richardson said.
Richardson added staff aren’t “celebrating prematurely” noting the first three months are perilous for polar bear cubs due to their undeveloped immune system and the mother’s need for privacy presenting a high risk of killing or abandoning the cub.
“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,” Richardson said.
The cub’s cries were first heard Dec. 18 but the park doesn’t expect it to leave the den until February or March.
Keepers are taking a “hands-off” approach to prevent disturbing the mother, only checking the enclosure to see if the water outside the den isn’t frozen.
The park’s Head of Living Collections Douglas Richardson said the birth is “a tremendous husbandry accomplishment for our team.”
“When Victoria arrived here in 2015 it was another tangible step in RZSS developing a new method of captive polar bear management, by providing a naturalistic habitat in a climate that is not so different from the one they have evolved to cope with,” he said. “This success has been based on a radically different approach to their care and husbandry to mirror what would happen in the wild.”