Victor, the country’s only polar bear, has welcomed a new friend to his specially built home at award winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
The 480kg favourite is sharing his realm with a two-year-old male polar bear called Pixel.
Victor is a venerable 16-year-old senior but the age gap friendship will be perfectly natural as males leave their mothers at two to roam the wilderness joining groups of other males. The two new friends will look like little and large as Pixel is a third of the size of Victor.
“Male polar bears will leave their mothers at approximately two years old. This means it is quite natural for Pixel to wander and find other males to hang around with,” said Animal Development Manager Simon Marsh.
“Pixel is very playful and finds everything interesting and will be sure to keep Victor and the visitors entertained.”
Pixel, who may one day be part of the European Breeding Programme, was brought to YWP in Branton near Doncaster from a zoo outside Eindhoven in the Netherlands in a meticulously planned operation this week.
He was driven on Monday in a specialist transporter to Rotterdam for the overnight ferry trip to Hull, arriving at YWP just before 9am on Tuesday morning.
Victor, who has been resident since last August, gave a roar when he realised there was an new arrival at Project Polar, a purpose built reserve spanning 10 acres (about 8.5 football pitches) and divided into four sections, featuring landscaped hills, valleys, lakes with water up to 8m deep, pools
Simon Marsh explained: “Victor was immediately on his guard when he realised another polar bear was there. But after a roar or two he settled down.
“Once Pixel is settled in the plan will be to introduce them together as soon as possible. Pixel is going to look so small compared to big old Victor!”
World experts collaborated on the design of ground breaking Project Polar to create a reserve that reflected the Arctic summer habitat and provided a complex and stimulating environment for the polar bear.
Simon Marsh said: “Polar bears are an iconic species that are increasingly threatened in their native habitat and we need to fight their cause. Their native sea ice is disappearing due to climate change but we still have a chance to do something about it and at Project Polar we can share with visitors how they can help.
“It is also vital that we understand how to care for these bears appropriately in captivity and provide for their needs.
“The initial research into Victor has been extremely encouraging and Pixel’s arrival is a bonus.”
The polar bear arrivals follows the launch of the Project Polar appeal last year which helped bring the world’s largest land carnivore to YWP. The only other bears in the UK live in Scotland.
“We are very excited at now having two polar bears in the new reserve, which has been designed around the needs of the polar bear,” added Mr Marsh. “The enclosure gives the bears the space they need to enjoy natural behaviour such as swimming, roaming and foraging in a physically varied and stimulating complex environment.
“The landscaping of the reserves mirror the Arctic Tundra with grass, herbs, shrubs and heathers. There are rocky areas and caves, which provide shelter for the bears as well as their main house. The large lake is 8m deep so they are able to swim and dive. We are sure that Pixel will enjoy his new surroundings as much as Victor has.”
Pixel’s arrival is another exciting development for the innovative walk through attraction, which has plenty of family fun lined up for the Easter holidays and into the Summer.
The Park’s celebrated Easter Egg trail has prizes for children who complete a route around the 70-acre park taking in the unique animal collection of some of the world’s most endangered and beautiful species including Amur Tigers and Leopards, and Painted Hunting Dogs along with Lions, Giraffes, Baboons, Lemurs and Meerkats.
The weatherproof 600 sq m Monkey Play barn is the perfect place to warm up or stay out of the sun
Adults can relax whilst the children enjoy three levels of play equipment, including climbing frames, dens, slides and rope bridges in full view of the baboon reserve through a glass wall.