AN ANIMAL charity has called for a ban on polar bears being bred in captivity just days after the UK’s only female polar bear arrived in the Highlands.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland delivered Victoria the polar bear to the Highland Wildlife Park in Aviemore on Wednesday.
They hope she will breed with one of the male bears already at the park and produce two cubs in captivity over the next year.
But Animal Concern based in Glasgow has branded the plan “cruel commercial exploitation” and called for such programmes to be outlawed.
It comes the same week that Edinburgh Zoo chiefs announced female panda Tian Tian has been artificially inseminated for the third year in a row.
All previous attempts have been unsuccessful.
It is not the first time polar bears have been bred in Scotland – the last to be born in capacity was in 1992.
A spate cub deaths at Edinburgh zoo a decade ago – when 17 out of 19 cubs died within a few days of birth – saw a campaign to stop the programmes.
John Robins from Glasgow based Animal Concern said: “Commercialism has taken over.
“Polar bears should not be bred in captivity. We need a change in the law to end the dangerous and cruel commercial exploitation.”
But park bosses insist they are not being driven by commercial reasons.
Douglas Richardson, of the Highland Wildlife Park, said: “It is important to understand that modern polar bear husbandry has moved on dramatically and enclosures are not what they were even up to ten years ago, although yes it would be true to say some zoos still do have room for improvement.”
He added: “A shrinking polar ice-cap and shortening polar ice season has pitched the species to the fore-front of conservation concerns.
“The role of a zoo community cannot be undervalued in assisting field conservation.”