The first polar bear cub born in the UK for 25 years is being monitored at a Scottish wildlife park.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) said its resident female polar bear Victoria has given birth at the Highland Wildlife Park.
The charity described the birth as an “outstanding achievement” but stressed that the first three months can be perilous for polar bear cubs, both in the wild and in captivity.
Staff at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, at Kincraig near Kingussie, confirmed the birth after hearing “high-pitched sounds” from Victoria’s maternity den.
It is the first time a polar bear cub has been born in the UK for a quarter of a century, the organisation said.
Una Richardson, the park’s head keeper responsible for carnivores, said: “We first heard promising noises in the week before Christmas and these have now continued into the new year.
“Because we don’t have sight inside her cubbing box we can’t be sure if Victoria has had more than one cub but we can confirm the birth.
“While we are absolutely thrilled, we are not celebrating prematurely as polar bear cubs have a high mortality rate in the first weeks of life due to their undeveloped immune system and the mother’s exaggerated need for privacy, with any disturbance risking the cub being killed or abandoned.
“We will continue to monitor Victoria and very much hope for the best possible news when she emerges around March.
“Until then, Victoria’s enclosure will be closed to the public and keeper activity will be at a minimum to give her offspring every chance of survival.”
READ MORE: Scottish history timeline from 1054 to 2014