Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Birth of polar bear cub at Highland Wildlife Park

3 January 2018

Categories: Homepage News, Bears Campaign News, Zoo Check Campaign News

Polar bears are profoundly ill-suited to the zoo environment

Reacting to news of the birth of the first polar bear cub in a UK zoo for 25 years, Born Free President, Will Travers OBE, said:

“Described by the zoo as an ‘outstanding achievement’ Born Free, consistent with a position it has held since the late 1980s, sees this as more of a tragedy in the making. Research commissioned by Born Free in 1987, and subsequent evaluations of polar bears in captivity, indicate that the species is profoundly ill-suited to the zoo environment with widespread display of stereotypic abnormal behaviours, infanticide and high rates of cub mortality.

At a time when the zoo community should be phasing-out the keeping of polar bears in captivity, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has decided to row against the tide. From a welfare point of view, the enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park may be significantly better than the blue-rinse concrete pits that people so often associate with polar bears in zoos, but we contend that our efforts on behalf of this species should be focused on mitigating the impacts of human-induced climate change and securing the species in the wild, not subjecting another polar bear to a lifetime in captivity.

Doug Richardson, Head of Living Collections at the zoo, has stated that his approach to care and husbandry mirrors “what would happen in the wild”. The wild is a place this cub will never see or know, and how depressing that we still believe that we should have ‘living collections’.

Will this infant polar bear fare any better than the young polar bear born at Berlin zoo, who was reported dead on Tuesday 2nd January 2018, aged 26 days, or the cub born to the same mother who was found dead in March 2017?

Born Free and our many supporters around the world sadly cannot celebrate events at the Highland Wildlife Park. It is not the start to 2018 that we would hope for.”

Image: wild polar bear © M Vickers

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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