Highland Wildlife Park: Scotland's only polar bear cub pictured opening eyes for first time

Scotland’s only polar bear cub has opened its eyes for the first time - as it begins to explore its Highland home.

The cub was born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore in December.Mother Victoria delivered her latest offspring in a purpose-built maternity den where the cub will remain until it ventures out for the first time at around three months old.

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However, new images from within the structure show the infant has now opened its eyes. Although the den is largely in the dark, it is clear the cub is growing quickly.In one heartwarming moment captured, the cub appears to be climbing over Victoria's giant paw - before letting out a large yawn in another.Keith Gilchrist, Animal Collection Manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, said: "At a month and a half old, our cub has now opened their eyes fully. They will remain in the dark, cosy cubbing den with mum Victoria for a few months before they venture out into the outdoor enclosure."Although the cub is still reliant on Victoria, they are becoming stronger and more mobile every day, moving about the den more and more."He added: It's been absolutely fantastic actually seeing Victoria interact with her cub. She's such a good mum and really attentive."Polar bear cubs only open their eyes at around a month old and they are entirely dependent on their mother, feeding on fat-rich milk to grow quickly.It is expected to leave the den for the first time next month. Keepers will not know the cub's sex until health checks in the spring, after which it will be named.Meanwhile, it has been revealed the cub will be Victoria's last. Born on 12 December 1996 at Rostock Zoo in Germany, Victoria previously had a cub in Aalborg Zoo in Denmark before being transported to Scotland in 2015 as a mate for Arktos.Now aged 25, Victoria is Britain's oldest polar bear. Females have bred up to age 26 in the past, but the current cub will remain with her for the next two to three years, by which time she could be 28.Mr Gilchrist said: "Victoria is in the upper range of reproductive age. This will be her last cub, not just because of her age but also because of the genetic representation within the captive population."Polar bears are the largest living land carnivores and can reach up to 11ft tall when standing on their hind legs.Native to the Arctic region, polar bears are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and have become one of the main symbols for the fight against climate change.

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