I have to admit I have not met Mercedes, who is the polar bear that Edinburgh Zoo sent to the Highland wildlife park at Kincraig. It was becoming rather embarrassing keeping Mercedes, who was getting on a bit, in a city zoo. It's alright to keep creepy crawlies and the odd parrot in a cage, but on the whole large animals are a no no these days.
Fortunately Kincraig has acres and acres of sub arctic tundra of the sort in which polar bears romp when not looking for an ice floe to pose on. So Mercedes ended up just a few minutes off the A9 along with Edinburgh's other export, Siberian tigers.
Before we get to the question of feeding Mercedes horsemeat, it is worth noting that Aberdeen art gallery has a polar bear fur coat in its costume collection. I know this because a vast wardrobe that had belonged to the late Mrs Farquharson of Invercauld was given to the gallery when she died. She had been editor of Vogue before the Second World War and had wowed fashionable London in the huge white fur which I should imagine even in those days of the stiff upper lip had small children crying in the street over the fate of its original wearer.
While I wouldn't dare interfere with Mercedes' diet, I was always under the impression polar bears ate seals and there is absolutely no shortage of seals. At last count there were 180,000 grey seals, let alone common seals in Scottish waters compared to 21,000 in 1970, munching their way through 460,000 tonnes of fish a year.
Seals also have a propensity to attack salmon farms which are allowed to shoot the occasional rogue animal pour encourager les autres thereby doing wild salmon a favour as well.
So if the salmon farming industry wants to do itself some good and ingratiate itself with those of us who think there are too many seals out there, it should start supplying Mercedes with fresh seal meat from the seas around
its cages. The marketing opportunities, given the wildlife park's 65,000 visitors a year, are modest. But the goodwill to be engendered from a grateful polar bear-loving public is priceless.
"Mercedes is fed daily on finest fresh fillets of seal specially selected from the clear clean waters of Scotland's Atlantic seaboard. Today's seal liver, high in polar bear-friendly vitamins, has been supplied by…" and whichever brand is up for the sponsorship. I wouldn't mind betting the Siberian tigers would go a seal steak barbecue of a summer evening as well. And to think, marketing gurus get paid millions to dream up this sort of drivel.
This article was first published in The Scotsman on Saturday, June 26, 2010