A polar bear can weigh up to 500 kg and survive by catching seals from the sea ice in the Arctic. In Scandinavian Wildlife Park you can experience the worlds largest landliving predator in a unique polar bear park.
The Polar Bear Park
In 2006 our very popular polar bear park opened, and this without a doubt the best place in the world to experience polar bears up close.
The polar bear park covers 26000 square meters.
Experience polar bear as they live during the summer on the tundra, with hills, logs, big rocks and an enormous lake. You watch the polar bears from the 220 meters long boardwalk.
You are guaranteed a breathtaking experience!
The polar bears primary food are seals.
Seals constitute more than 90% of the polar bears diet, and this is primarily ringed seals. Polar bears can only catch seals from the sea ice. They can sit still for hours in down to minus 40 degrees Celsius, and wait for the seal to pop its head up through the sea ice. When the seal emerges, the polar bear smacks it on the side of the head. Dinner is served.
A polar bear needs to catch about 50 seals a year. The hunting period on the sea ice is best from November till June/July. The polar bear needs to catch 1½ seals every week in the period where they can hunt from the sea ice.
Sometimes the polar bear will also catch walrus and belugas.
The polar bear is threatened by global warming
In the summer months the polar bears are fasting, because the Arctic sea ice has melted. It cannot catch seals without the sea ice. Most polar bears fast from the sea ice melts in June/July, until the sea freezes over again and the ice is thick enough to carry the polar bear in November. Climate change means that the the sea ice melts earlier in the summer, and freezes later in the year than before. Already the period where the polar bears can roam the sea ice is 3-4 weeks shorter in many arctic areas. It’s not that big a problem for the males, and non-pregnant females.
But for the pregnant females it’s a whole different story. They will leave the sea ice, just like all the other polar bears, in June/July. In October they will dig a den in the snow or the tundra. Here they give birth to their cubs in November/December. The polar bear cubs are very small at birth – they weigh around 6-700 grams. The mom and cubs are not ready to leave the den before march, which means that the polar bear mom has been fasting for around 8 months. This is an extremely long time, and she is not equipped to deal with an even longer period, now that the sea ice melts earlier and forms later in the year. This can mean that she will not have big enough fat deposits for both and her young, and the cubs are not sure to survive.
If the pregnant females start losing more of their cubs, the polar bear as a species will become extinct. This is why the polar bear is a great example of the effects of a warming climate, and that climate change already is affecting the animals of the world – even though we can’t feel it in our everyday life.
Our polar bears
At the moment 6 polar bears live in Scandinavian Wildlife Park. A breeding couple (Nuno and Ivan), two males (Siku and Nanok), an older castrated male (Nuuk) and an older female (Ilka).
In 2011 the first polar bear cub that has grown up in the park was born. His name is Siku and his story is quite unique. His mother, Ilka could produce milk for him, so he was hand-reared by the staff in the park. Now he is almost a fully grown polar bear, and he is completely integrated with the other polar bears in the park. You can read more about Siku's story HERE.
The year after Siku was born, Ilka gave birth to twins. This time we succeeded in stimulating Ilka's milk production, so she could raise the twins on her own. It was a male (Nanu) and a female (Nuno) and they are now so big that Nuno is the new breeding female in the park, and Nanu is now living in the Netherlands.
Why polar bears?
Education is very important in Scandinavian Wildlife Park. We don’t believe that we will save all the worlds polar bears by having polar bear in our park, but the will be able to act as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. If the Arctic sea ice disappears the polar bear will become extinct – it’s completely dependent of the sea ice to hunt seals and survive. But with the sea ice and the polar bears, a lot of other species will disappear to.
We want to show our visitors the polar bear in the most natural way possible, and by educating them about climate change and its effects on the polar bear and the world, we might induce a positive change. Maybe we can get our visitors to think about their everyday life, and make changes to reduce their carbon footprint.
Our polar bears are a part of the international breeding program for polar bears in captivity – the so-called EEP (European Endagered Species Program).
Scandinavian Wildlife Park (SWP) and Polar Bears International (PBI)
In addition to educating about polar bears in SWP, we also work closely with the world’s biggest NGO working to save the polar bear: Polar Bears International. PBI is and American/Canadian based NGO, working to spread knowledge about the polar bears life and status in the arctic. They collect donations that is used for research and education, and they have a world-wide network of partners. This includes politicians, scientists, educators and animal parks and zoos.
Visit their website; http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/ and you can get lost for days in endless information, photos and videos about polar bears.
Because of our fantastic polar bear park, Scandinavian Wildlife Park has been chosen as one of PBI’s Arctic Ambassador Centre’s. This means that we have a special responsibility to do serious education about polar bears and the Arctic. We also participate in their education programs by sending students and educators to complete an education program among the polar bears on the Canadian tundra.