Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Only Polar Bear in the 'Village'

I was surprised to read that the UK has only one female Polar bear (Mercedes) in captivity (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8294590.stm). She is apparently about to be moved from Edinburgh zoo to a new 1.62 hectare enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park. Although the enclosure sounds large in zoo terms (and is said to reflect the 'tundra'), it is nothing like the average range of these animals in nature. The bear is unlikely to be able to show much by the way of the normal feeding activities of the species. Given the precarious state of Polar bear populations, the UK zoos are consequently essentially doing nothing for this species. I suspect that this antipathy to zoo-based Polar bears is related to their tendency to show stereotypies including head waving and repetitive walking. These don't go down well with the paying public.

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