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article imageUK's only polar bear to get a new playmate today

By Kev Hedges     Nov 5, 2010 in Environment
Kingussie - Mercedes, Britain's only polar bear, will get a new playmate today when a 23-month-old cub called Walker joins her from a zoo in Holland.
At 28, Mercedes is probably too old to mate but will hopefully act as a mother figure for Walker, who will be in his mating prime within a few years. Mercedes has been alone now for the last 13 years, after her breeding partner Barney died. In general, adult polar bears live solitary lives. But Walker will eventually become Britain's only polar bear once Mercedes passes on and he will then be introduced to females for breeding.
Mercedes was moved from Edinburgh zoo to the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie, deep in the Scottish Highland region last year. Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager for the Highland park, said: "The polar bear European Endangered Species Programme co-ordinates the movement of animals around European zoo collections as part of the breeding programme."
Walker's mother Huggies is expecting another litter soon, reports Yahoo UK, and the programme decided to move Walker out of the way whilst Huggies tends to her new borns. Walker will join Mercedes in an enclosure spanning four acres, a natural pool and a tundra-like environment. The climate is far more suited for the bears in the Highlands than in the low countries.
Mercedes has had two cubs during her breeding years with Barney; To-Nuik and Ohoto, who were transferred to other zoos, LBC reports. An extension has been added to the enclosure for Walker to get used to his new environment first before being introduced to Mercedes.
Mercedes had been the only polar bear on public show in Britain; brought to the UK in 1984 from Canada, where she was due to be shot after being found roaming into local towns looking for food.
She was given a reprieve when Edinburgh Zoo offered to give her a home and remained there until last year when she was moved to Highland Wildlife Park.
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