IT IS always difficult introducing two young playmates – even more so when they are heavyweight carnivores capable of ripping each other apart.
But it was all playful wresting when three-year-old Walker, who was the UK’s only polar bear until now, met his new friend Arktos, who is a year older.
Arktos arrived at Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig from Hanover in Germany to give Walker some companionship.
A worldwide appeal had gone out to zoos for a female mate in the hope of breeding, but none was available.
However, park bosses were determined to give Walker some companionship and found a willing playmate in Arktos.
The pair made their first public appearance yesterday, taking the limelight for the time being from the giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang at Edinburgh Zoo, whose attempts to mate attracted worldwide attention last week.
Animal collection manager Douglas Richardson said: “Introducing two 400kg carnivores is, of course, a tad nerve-racking, but so far it has all been rough play that would make a professional heavyweight wrestler proud.”
Staff at the park hope that the bears will establish a relationship of friendly competitiveness.
Mr Richardson said: “We’re delighted to have a second male polar bear join us in the Highlands.
“Great company for Walker, Arktos will provide companionship, greater enrichment and stimulation.
“The initial signs are good that both youngsters will get on well together, judging by their first encounters.
“Immature males do tend to react well to each other when they meet, but it will be a grad-ual series of introductions before Arktos moves in totally with Walker.”
He added: “Walker is a great bear who is full of fun and character, and it seems that Arktos is exactly the same. It will be great to see the pair interact with each other and observe how their companionship develops over time.”