Military Lend a Hand to Create New Female Polar Bear Enclosure at Highland Wildlife Park

September 21, 2014 § Leave a comment


Ten days, 60 military personnel, 2,240 hours of labour and 615 tonnes of timber and stone later, all in preparation for approximately 250 kilos of female polar bear. The 71 Engineer Regiment and a contingent from the South Dakota National Guard saluted goodbye to Walker and Arktos as they handed back a brand new walkway and female polar bear enclosure to Highland Wildlife Park.

HWP_Army_Build_PolarBearPondSteven Plowman, Highland Wildlife Park Property and Estates Manager, said:

“I was approached by the military personnel to see if we could offer them a task for their operatives; they were looking to do practical engineering work within the local community that allowed them to create something permanent for people to enjoy for many years to come. A win win for all. As a conservation charity we are also delighted to receive the donation (worth an amazing £45,000) of the military’s experience and labour. Incredibly, each post hole is dug by hand with fencing shovels and then the posts themselves are loaded onto army vehicles and taken out to the site of the new development.”

Douglas Richardson, Animals Collection Manager for the Highland Wildlife Park, continues:

“We are delighted to be welcoming a female polar bear to the Park next spring. It is still to be agreed exactly which female will arrive in the Highlands, but we hope to have confirmation shortly. The female will remain separate from the males, as she would in the wild, and during the breeding season we will introduce her to one of our males – likely Arktos to start with as he is the older of our boys. The two will spend some time together and we hope nature will take its course.

Arktos by Alex Riddell

Arktos by Alex Riddell

“The last time polar bear cubs were born and reared in the UK was in 1992.  Creating an environment that will allow such an event to happen again will be incredibly positive for the Highland Wildlife Park and confirm that our unique approach to this threatened species’ husbandry – which will mirror what happens in the wild – is correct.”

The new enclosure will feature a pond for the female to splash and play in and plenty of natural ground for her to run and roll around on. In addition to the main enclosure, adjacent will be a smaller holding enclosure, also featuring a pond, for when the male comes to visit. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland have a history of designing state of the art polar bear enclosures that meet the animal’s needs to the highest level possible. Animal experts from the Park have since been invited to consult and advise on other polar bear enclosures both in the UK and around the world.

Also in development is a raised walkway through the vicuna enclosure. The viewing platform will wind up the hill to give a panoramic view of the female polar bear enclosure and also provide disabled access to visitors.

Walkway by Alex Riddell

Walkway by Alex Riddell

Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mifsud RE, Commanding Officer of 71 Engineer Regiment said:

“This project, involving a blend of Reservists from 71 Engineer Regiment, Regular Sappers from our partnered Regular unit in Kinloss and military engineers from the South Dakota National Guard, provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the depth and diversity of skills required to plan, resource and deliver an ambitious project in such short time. It provides vital training for the Regiment’s role on future operations. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with the Society again; this sort of work develops individual trade skills; inspires my soldiers and generates an enormous amount of interest from those who seek to add a new dimension to their lives as a Royal Engineer Reservist.”

A ‘handing over’ ceremony between the Park and military personnel took place on Wednesday 17 September, where Daska Mackintosh, Head of Operations and Visitor Services at Highland Wildlife Park presented military representatives from both sides of the Atlantic with specially commissioned commemorative polar bear prints.

Handing over ceremony by Alex Riddell

Handing over ceremony by Alex Riddell

Second in Command of the 71 Engineer Regiment, Major Darren Keogh was presented with a large print of Walker to be displayed in their Leuchars headquarters in Fife. The contingent from the South Dakota National Guard received four smaller prints that will travel to various towns throughout South Dakota which are local to the units.

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