WATCH: Early Christmas present at Highland Wildlife Park as birth of baby polar bear cub confirmed
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our digital subscription packages!
A tiny polar bear cub has arrived just in time for Christmas at the Highland Wildlife Park.
Staff at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) today announced the birth at the popular attraction near Kincraig.
They were delighted when they first heard the distinct high-pitched cub sounds coming from the den on Tuesday but have said the coming months are crucial.
CCTV footage captured in the den shows mum Victoria and cub enjoying a snooze.
Vickie Larkin, carnivore team leader at the wildlife park, said: “This is a tremendous occasion which is a testament to our team’s hard-work.
“While we are excited about the new arrival, we are not celebrating quite yet as the first few weeks of a polar bear’s life is critical, with potential immune system complications and mum’s need for privacy during this time our top priority.
“Like all the animals in our care, our polar bears play an important role in attracting and engaging thousands of visitors each year so they can learn about the threats animals face in the wild and the action they can take to help.
"Their power to connect with people with nature and encourage behaviour change is invaluable.”
Victoria previously gave birth to Hamish, the UK’s first polar bear cub in 25 years, in December 2017.
As part of the breeding programme for the species, Hamish moved to Yorkshire Wildlife Park in November 2020.
Hamish’s father Arktos was paired with Victoria again earlier this year.
Vickie commented: “We were hopeful Victoria and Arktos would produce another cub when they were reintroduced for the breeding season in February.
“She is a very attentive mother and we’re pleased to say they are both doing well so far.
"We will not know if the little one is a boy or girl until we are able to perform health checks in the spring and they will be named shortly after.
“Polar bears are born blind and do not open their eyes until they are a month old.
"At the moment, the youngster is about a foot long and weighs roughly the same as a guinea pig.”
Public viewing is closed to give mum Victoria and her youngster lots of peace and quiet.
Dad Arktos and Walker, the park’s other male polar bear, can still be spotted in their enclosure.
More information on visiting Highland Wildlife Park can be found here at highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/we-are-open.