The UK’s oldest polar bear has raised hopes of a cub after rekindling the romance with her old partner for the first time in four years.
Polar bear Victoria produced the UK’s first cub for 25 years at the Highland Wildlife Park (HWP) near Aviemore in 2017.
The 24-year-old bear was reintroduced to her old mate Arktos last month, after their cub, Hamish, moved to a wildlife park in Yorkshire late last year to be with other young males.
Keepers have now confirmed the pair have mated again, and hopes are high for another cub due to their previous success.
The polar bear breeding season is due to continue until around June and, if the polar bear cubs hopes come to fruition, one or two young would likely be born in November or December and could help bolster the safety-net population for the increasingly threatened species.
Vickie Larkin, carnivore team leader at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) attraction, said: “Arktos and Victoria are continuing to get along well since being reintroduced last month.
“We have noticed some mating behaviour between the pair and are hopeful this will continue during the (rest of the) breeding season.
“It is too soon to say if any mating attempts were successful and we won’t know until any potential cubs are born later this year.”
Victoria was born in Rostock Zoo in Germany and came to Scotland in March 2015.
Arktos was moved into an adjoining enclosure in January to allow the bears to become reacquainted. Keepers monitored their behaviour before allowing Arktos to join Victoria in her custom-built enclosure last month.
Victoria is now Scotland’s – and Britain’s – oldest polar bear after turning 24 in December. While females have bred up to age 26 in the past, any result of this year’s polar bear cub hopes this year would likely be her last. Arktos is half Victoria’s age at just 12 years old.