England’s only polar bear has welcomed a new companion to its home in South Yorkshire.
Victor, the 16-year-old, half-tonne bear who lives at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP), in Doncaster, has been joined by a younger male, Pixel.
The park said Pixel is 14 years younger and a third of the size of his new compound-mate.
“Male polar bears will leave their mothers at approximately two-years-old,” said animal development manager Simon Marsh.
“This means it is quite natural for Pixel to wander and find other males to hang around with. Pixel is very playful and finds everything interesting and will be sure to keep Victor and the visitors entertained.”
The park said Pixel, who may one day be part of the European Breeding Programme, was brought to YWP from a zoo outside Eindhoven in the Netherlands in an operation this week.
He was driven on Monday in a specialist transporter to Rotterdam for the overnight ferry trip to Hull, arriving at the park on Tuesday morning.
Mr Marsh said Victor, who weighs 480kg, gave a roar when he realised there was an new arrival at Project Polar, the park’s purpose-built 10-acre polar bear reserve.
He said: “Victor was immediately on his guard when he realised another polar bear was there. But after a roar or two he settled down.
“Once Pixel is settled in the plan will be to introduce them together as soon as possible. Pixel is going to look so small compared to big old Victor.”
Mr Marsh added: “Polar bears are an iconic species that are increasingly threatened in their native habitat and we need to fight their cause. Their native sea ice is disappearing due to climate change but we still have a chance to do something about it and at Project Polar we can share with visitors how they can help.
“It is also vital that we understand how to care for these bears appropriately in captivity and provide for their needs.
“The initial research into Victor has been extremely encouraging and Pixel’s arrival is a bonus.”
Meanwhile in Scotland, the UK’s only female polar bear arrived at her new home today, bringing hopes of a cub in the future.
Victoria is being introduced to Highland Wildlife Park as a potential mate for seven-year-old Arktos who lives there with fellow male Walker.
The female, who has delivered from Aalborg Zoo in Denmark, will spend a couple of weeks settling into her new enclosure before the public can see her.
If Victoria settles in quickly she might try to start breeding this year. Arktos has been chosen as Victoria’s potential mate as his bloodline is less well represented than Walker’s and he is a year older and likely to be more mature.