Hamish the Polar Bear – Highland Wildlife Park
On the 18th of December last year something amazing took place. Hamish, born to parents Victoria and Arktos at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, was the first polar bear born in captivity in the UK for 25 years. And a year ago, he made his first appearance outside the den. This blog is to celebrate this momentous event.
The Highland wildlife park is a wonderful place. It’s a day out for everybody, young and old. Is there anything that makes you feel like you are on safari than driving around the sprawling enclosure of the elk, Prewolskis Horse, and the bison all wandering around you, sometimes close and sometimes not? It’s like being in Africa, searching the grassland for a lion or rhino, the excitement not in the least bit diminished by the somewhat more regular wildlife on display. The joy of going with children? – everything has wonder. This was Mathews experience (our Digital Marketing Manager) when going for the first time with his daughters, and let us tell you, there is nothing more surprising than hearing a 3 year old pronounce in delight “look there is Prewolkis horse!” and “The Mishmitakken is quite shy…”
So what better way to capture the magic than from a child’s point of view. So here it is, from the viewpoint of Mathews five year old daughter, with the occasional input from his three year old, and even one addition from his one year old too!
What is your favourite animal at the wildlife park?
Maisie: My favourite animal is baby Hamish. And Victoria, the mummy polar bear. They live together. And his daddy is called Arctos. His uncle is called Walker. The two boys live together. They can’t live together because the males polar bears might eat the baby. But when Hamish is grown up Victoria and Arctos will go back together to have another baby.
Do you know how old he is?
Maisie: He might be five years old, like me.
(Mathew explained that he was one, the response: ‘Don’t be silly, he is too big to be one!’)
Where is the enclosure?
Maisie: It’s not on the driveway but you go round it and up a hill, not in the car though. You go up the hill where the arctic fox used to be and when you see the square walks you go up that path and they are at the end.
And do they have a pond?
Maisie: Yes, a big muddy pond! (lots of excitement for this question). And Hamish is white when he goes in, he’s actually white most of the time but he gets muddy and dirty because he is playing.
What does Hamish eat?
Maisie: Meat (said with confidence).
Clodah: He eats rats! (This is not true).
Maisie: They freeze things in ice so he has to crack it open with his paws to get to it like he was to in the wild. He gets apples and lettuces too.
(Mother intervenes here and tell us that he eats poultry and deer, and Clodah pipes up with ‘oh yes, deer feet’. Again, as plausible as rats I think.)
What else do you see?
Clodah: Horses! Preswolkis horses!
Maisie: And Camels and the Bison and the Mismitakenns! The camels have two humps.
Clodah: And the red lisped deers!
Maisie: No! The white lipped deer, and the Bukhara deer. And we see all of this is in the car driving round. But you can’t get out because it’s the animals home.
(Clodah at this point pipes up ‘can you ask me what my favourite animal is?’)
Which we duly do and the answer is as such:
‘Um…..em….um….ah….um….the wild cats and the owls. Inside the wild cat cage are trees and there are walkways between the cages’
Maisie: And there are monkeys too. They all live together, one big family and they have babies that hang around their tummies and then the mummy walks them around when they are little.
Clodah : Maisie, remember the big monkey?
Maisie: Oh yes there was a big monkey who was chasing the others and we think he was definitely the king!
What about the tigers?
Maisie: yes the tigers! On the way up to the tigers there are tiger feet and poos on the path! (For clarification, these are iron casts of a paw print and a tiger poo, a treasure hunt of tiger things to spot on the way to the tigers). There are two tigers, they eat meat and we have seen them being fed. The keepers lock them in the cages before the keepers come out with their food and they hang the food up in the trees so they have to jump up and get it. The keepers and the tigers are never in the cage at the same time that would be unsafe because tigers are wild animals.
(At this point the baby, who up until now has been very focused on her yoghurt, shouts ‘Me favourite’. Again, dutifully asked and answered with ‘ite whipped ears’ which translated from Maisie as white lipped deers.)
What does a Mishmitakken look like?
Clodah: brown and horns.
Maisie: it looks a bit like a horse but it has black on its bottom and big horns and little feet. And it’s shy and stands still.
What do you know about the wolves?
Clodah: em……there are…one, two (she counts to 11). There are lots of them.
Maisie: there are lots of wolves. But the keepers took some babies out to let them out into the wild I think. But the very youngest stay in because they need to keep practicing.
And what else?
Maisie: We have forgotten the snow leopards. They live on the hill. And the vicunas, they look like baby deer. They don’t live with the leopards though, they would get eaten.
Clodah: what’s the one with the curly horns mummy? (Mummy dutifully lists all the curly horned animals, which are incorrect. It turns out to be Himalayan Tar, which incidentally does not have curly horns).
What babies have you seen this year?
Maisie: The Bukhara deer had babies this year. So did the owl. And the monkeys. And the wildcats.
Do you like going to the wildlife park?
Maise: it is a fun day at the wildlife park. And we always have a picnic at baby Hamish, on the benches so we can watch him. The first time we saw him there, he was sneaking up on his mummy and he ran down the hill to the pond and Victoria had to go racing after him to bring him back up! And then he pushed her in and her leg was sticking up!
Are there lots of different feedings?
Maisie: Yes you can go and watch them being fed and the keepers tell you lots of things about the animals. One time a monkey flicked a flea out and another monkey ate it!
(I explain the concept of social grooming….)
Maisie: Like when mummy brushes my hair?
Would she eat your fleas though?
Maisie (looks thoughtful for a good ten seconds): Yes
(I doubt she would).
And some final closing remarks from Mathew?
‘We have an annual membership card so we can go as many times as we like, and it is a wonderful place to go. You can spend hours there and every trip is different. It is educational, there is so much to see and learn and it is all age friendly- there is something for everybody at the wildlife park. And the lovely thing is, as the seasons change the animals change, the cycles change there are new babies and older animals leaving so it’s a really nice way to teach the children about the circle of life.
Maisie: We went for daddy’s birthday, and my birthday, and Granny’s birthday, and when uncle Tim came to stay and when Uncle Nigel was here, and Clodah’s birthday last year when it was very snowy and there was no one else there!
So there you have it, out of the mouths of babes indeed. It truly is a fantastic place to visit. Check out their website today.
We hope you enjoyed this colourful post to end your week. If you are planning adventures with your family in 2019 we think this should be at the top of your list! We have lots of lovely holiday homes based within easy distance of the Highland Wildlife Park so why not make an event of it? Pop over to our WEBSITE today and check them out.