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Polar bears celebrate joint birthday in Scotland

Arktos and Walker celebrate their birthdays. Picture: Peter Jolly

Arktos and Walker celebrate their birthdays. Picture: Peter Jolly


  • by ALISTAIR MUNRO
 

HEAVY snowfall was the perfect birthday present for Scotland’s two polar bears.

Arktos and Walker – the only polar bears on public display in the UK – celebrated a joint fifth and fourth birthday party at Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie, Inverness-shire.

Large crowds watched as the two bears – weighing over 450kilos each – frolicked in the white stuff in their six-acre bachelor pad enclosure while tucking into specially-constructed ice cake, complete with fish and topped with a few tasty sardines as an extra treat.

Walker welcomed his new polar play pal, Arktos, earlier this year and ever since both bears have become inseparable.

Keepers quickly realised that for their first birthdays together, only one thing would do - a joint polar party.

Douglas Richardson, Animal Collection Manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said: “There is a slight age gap between the boys, Arktos is now five and Walker is just a year younger at four years old.

“They quickly built up a strong bond from the word go, taking to each other extremely well and since that initial introduction last April they have been spending the vast majority of their time together.

“They can often be spotted splashing and swimming in their pond, wrestling playfully and even feeding nose to nose – they definitely have a healthy competitive relationship that you’d expect from two young bears.

“There are only a few days between their individual birthdays, so for their first birthday together we thought it would only be fitting to throw them a joint birthday party.

“Walker and Arktos both love their food, and this means they can sometimes get a bit feisty if one is getting fed before the other. However to stop any food envy the birthday bears will be able to sink their teeth into their very own birthday ice cakes filled with lots of different fish and topped with some of their favourite treats, including sardines.

“They are both still sub-adults and it won’t be for around another two years or so before both males are fully grown and sexually mature.

“But as male polar bears are much more sociable there is still many years of wrestling and chasing one another for these young polar bears to come.”

Walker, born on 7 December 2008, arrived at Highland Wildlife Park in 2010 from Rhenan Zoo in the Netherlands.

He was joined by Arktos, born on 30 November 2007, in April this year from Hannover Zoo in Germany.

Polar bears have 42 razor sharp teeth and their canines are larger and longer than any other bears.

Both their carnassials and molars are sharper and used for shearing and biting, not for grinding, due to polar bears being almost exclusively carnivorous.

Arktos underwent a major operation last month to have a sore tooth removed.

Underneath their thick, white fur coat – perfect camouflage for their snowy surroundings – polar bears actually have black skin, ideal for soaking up the heat of the sun’s rays.

These majestic animals are the land giants of the Arctic and have no natural predators.

They are extremely strong swimmers, their large paddle like front paws are slightly webbed – their rear legs are only used to steer when swimming.

The polar bears are perfectly adapted to living in freezing temperatures they have fur that grows on their paws helping to insulate them against the icy cold surface they walk on

 

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