Mercedes The Polar Bear
Mercedes the Polar Bear arrived in Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland from Churchill, Manitoba in Canada in 1984. Believed to be three or four years old she was a ‘rescue’ bear in that she was a wild bear which had become a nuisance and was spending much of her time hanging around human habitation. When she first arrived she was darted and the number ‘39’ was spray painted in black onto her white coat and she was taken a good distance away and released. Sadly she had developed a taste for ‘city life’ and its bright lights and quickly returned. Once again she was caught up and moved but once again she returned. After the third time she came back there were two options. These were to either euthanize her or find her a home in a zoo.
Edinburgh Zoo were kind enough to offer her a home as a companion for their lone male ‘Barney’. ‘Mercedes’ was given the name Mercedes-Benz because the car company were kind enough to cover the transport costs from Canada to Scotland. At the time of her arrival Mercedes was reckoned to be just a few years old.
Mercedes and Barney were a love match and parented two cubs whilst they were together. These were called ‘Minty‘ and ‘Ohoto’. ‘Ohoto’, a female, who was born in 1991 relocated to Adventure World in Shirahama in Japan in 1993. ‘Minty’, a male born in 1988 was later re-named ‘To-Nuik’ and moved on to Antwerp Zoo in 1990 where he sadly died of intestinal problems in 2004.
Worlds Oldest Polar Bear
The Worlds Oldest Polar Bear was 'Debbie' of Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada who was euthanased due to failing health aged 42 in November 2008.
15 - 20 years is the average maximum life span for a wild Polar Bear.
Sadly Barney died in 1996 (choked on a child’s plastic toy thrown into the moat) leaving Mercedes alone in Edinbugh and only one of just two Polar Bears remaining in the United Kingdom (the other being 'Zara' at Heythrop). At the time Edinburgh Zoo decided that when Mercedes finally passed away that they would move out of Polar Bears. Besides husbandry practices had moved on since her arrival and it was not easily in a position to provide more space for her within the zoo.
As time passed it became apparent that Mercedes had a good few more years of living to do than anyone had expected. Edinburgh Zoo wanted to do their best for her so in 2005 they announced plans to build a huge new enclosure for her within the zoo. This was met by howls of protest by the animal rights groups who were against any wild animals being held in captivity and Polar Bears in particular. Edinburgh stuck by their guns, pointing out the plight of Polar Bears in the wild as a result of global warning and the necessity to become in a captive breeding programme. Although Mercedes herself was not a likely candidate for breeding she could make a great contribution towards education.
A Very Odd Statement By CAPS
"Polar bears are not adapted to being hand-reared by humans"
CAPS are against the captive breeding programme for Polar Bears.
Edinburgh later revised its plans realising that they could offer a completely different experience if they were to construct an entirely different type of enclosure at the other RZSS collection in Kingussie. On the 22nd October 2009 Mercedes was taken to the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland to her purpose built four acre natural enclosure. This had been constructed at a cost of what would have been £300,000. However this was dropped to some £75,000 because of the generous free labour which was given by the Army and others. The completed enclosure was said to be the largest bear enclosure in the world if looked at from a bear to available space ratio.
It was obvious from the outset that it met with her approval as she played in the pools and on the hillocks. She settled into her new environment so well that it was as if she had never lived anywhere else.
Mercedes Arrival at Highland Wildlife Park
Professor Julian Dowdeswell, the director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge, says that since satellite observation began 30 years ago, the sea ice has retreated by 5 to 15 per cent.
Not long after the Park decided that a companion for Mercedes would be a good idea and so they offered a home to ‘Walker’ a young (23 months) sexually immature bear from Rhenen Zoo in Holland. He arrived at the HighlandWildlifePark in early November 2010. After a settling in period the two animals were introduced and although it was no love match the old lady and her young companion got along reasonably well.
A Polar Bear Poem
Bear In There
There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there--
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.
By Shel Siverstein
Towards the end of February 2011 Mercedes health was in an obvious decline. She was diagnosed to have severe osteoarthritis for which there is no cure. Though some of the discomfort she was feeling could be treated with painkillers it was merely a delay of the inevitable. Thirty years old is an exceptional age for a Polar Bear. Euthanasia is a serious and humane consideration in such cases. It involves close daily monitoring of condition as no zoo staff member ever like to think of their animals to be suffering.
At times like these, as with people, there are good days and bad days. These are determined by how good or how much sleep was had, the weather and temperature.
In April 2011 Mercedes has shown no signs of improvement and continues to be closely monitored by staff. Walker is enjoying his new life in Scotland.