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History-making polar bear cub Hamish turns one

December 18, 2018 9:59 AM
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History-making polar bear cub Hamish turns one

The first polar bear cub to be born in the UK in 25 years has turned one.

Hamish shares an enclosure with his mother Victoria at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, near Aviemore, in the Cairngorms.

Park staff have marked his birthday by giving him treats encased in an ice block and food hidden inside cardboard boxes.

The cub's father, Arktos, is kept in an area in a different part of the park along with another adult male polar bear called Walker.

Before Hamish, the last polar bear cubs born in the UK were twins at Flamingo Land in Yorkshire on 8 December 1992.

For months in the lead up to Hamish's birth and after he was born, Victoria's enclosure was closed off to the public.

This was done in an effort to reduce the chances of causing stress to her while she was pregnant, and after giving birth.

Once the area was opened again to visitors in March, thousands of people started arriving at the park to catch a glimpse of the cub.

Earlier this month, the zoo had its record 200,000th visit of 2018. The previous best year for visitor numbers was 2016 with 136,704 visits.

But some animal welfare organisations strongly oppose the polar bear breeding programme - saying conditions in the wild cannot be replicated in captivity.

There were more than 36,000 votes with more than 21,700 for Hamish. The other options were Poulsen, MacKinnon and Artor.

Else Poulsen was a renowned bear behaviourist, while MacKinnon is the name of a "dedicated supporter" of the park.

Staff said Artor was a Pictish name which directly relates to bears, as well as "a nod" to the cub's father, whose name Arktos means "bear" in Greek.

They said Hamish was "a strong Scottish name" that the park's keepers liked.

Una Richardson, head carnivore keeper at the park, said: "It has been an incredible year and we're really excited to be celebrating Hamish's first birthday today.

"We're hoping Hamish enjoys the day as much as us, and we've made him a special birthday cake made from ice and presents filled with his favourite treats."

She added: "Our mischievous cub has grown so much since he took his first steps outside in March and is rapidly catching up to his mum, Victoria, although he still has some way to go until he reaches his full adult size, as male polar bears can weigh up to 800kg."


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