Lone polar bear to get chance of friendship after hopes of romance put on ice

The only polar bear on public display in the UK is to get a new playmate this week.

Arktos, a male bear, is travelling from Hannover Zoo in Germany to join Walker at Highland Wildlife Park in Inverness-shire.

It is hoped the pair will respond well to each other and become friends once they are introduced.

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Park bosses hope to find a female breeding partner for the two males, who will not be sexually mature for another few years.

Four-year-old Arktos will initially be housed near Walker’s enclosure so the bears can get used to each other’s scent.

They will then be formally introduced, although exactly when depends on how they react.

Three-year-old Walker has been on his own at the park since Mercedes the polar bear was put down last April, aged 30, because of ill health.

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Douglas Richardson, animal collection manager at the park, said: “The Highland Wildlife Park is the only place in the UK that visitors can see polar bears and we are incredibly excited to shortly have two in our collection.

“Arktos is a little older than Walker and slightly bigger but we have high hopes that the playful bear duo will get on with each other when they are eventually introduced.

“Male immature polar bears tend to respond well to each other and it will be great if they do as Walker desperately needs a wrestling partner.

“Arktos will have a period of settling-in to his new surroundings in a holding enclosure next to Walker, so both boys will be able to catch the scent of one another and they’ll know they have company next door.”

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He added: “We’re all very interested to see what happens when Walker and Arktos meet. I’m sure we’ll know both bears get on with each other within the first 30 minutes. But introducing two large carnivores is always a tense and delicate procedure.”

The polar bear enclosure covers five acres and has a large pond. A second polar bear enclosure will have to be built so a female bear can come to the park.

It was hoped Walker would get a female companion at the end of last year but the bear chosen was found to be pregnant already.

A two-year-old male Amur tiger is also due to arrive at the park, along with Arktos, on April 5. Marty is moving to the Highlands from Olomouc Zoo in the Czech Republic. He will join resident female Amur tiger Dominica and it is hoped that they will become a breeding pair.