Highlands & Islands

Mate delay for Highland birthday boy bear Walker

Walker the polar bear
Image caption Walker plays with a hard hat, his favourite toy

Pairing up the only polar bear in a UK public zoo with a female mate has been delayed because the bear that was selected could already be pregnant.

Walker is kept at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig.

Staff, who have been marking the bear's third birthday, had hoped to have brought in a female from another collection by now.

Douglas Richardson, the park's animal collection manager, said other bears were being considered.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "There is the likelihood that the female that was selected to come to the Highland Wildlife Park is pregnant so, obviously, we didn't push that move any further.

"We have already submitted a revised document with recommendations for getting a female.

"At the earliest, this could be sorted out early next year."

"Bear groupies"

Walker received treats including sardines and a plastic hard hat - his favourite toy - to mark his birthday.

The bear arrived at the park from Rhenen Zoo in Holland last November.

He had shared an enclosure with aged female polar bear Mercedes until she was put down in April because of ill health. The bears had not been put together to mate.

Messages have appeared on Twitter joking that Walker was the UK's favourite bear until the arrival of two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo from China at the weekend.

But Mr Richardson said Walker's popularity among visitors and who he called "bear groupies" that the park was considering launching a Facebook page dedicated to providing information, photographs and updates on him.

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