As this Polar Bear cub takes his first adorable steps, he is beginning the journey which will hopefully see him grow to be a king of the Arctic plains. Polar Bears can be reared in a number of different environments, some growing up in the wild and others being raised in many different kinds of zoos. Here we’ll look at the different lives these Polar Bears end up leading.
With food resources scarce, the first year of a wild Polar Bear’s life can be fraught with danger. The 42% which survive spend most of their first year snug in the den with their mother. Hunting is not possible, so both the mother and her young will live off her fat reserves until the time comes for them to emerge. For the next two years the cubs will learn all the necessary survival skills - swimming, hiding and hunting - until finally they are ready to go it alone.
Not many Polar Bear cubs are born in captivity each year, and for those that are their early lives will be as varied as the zoos and wildlife centres which house them. In 2006 the famous cub Knut was born in a German zoo, and raised by a zookeeper who committed to giving him round the clock care and attention. Alternately, some cubs born in captivity can still be raised by their mother.
As the Polar Bears begin to grow up, the differences between their wild habitat and the environment offered by a zoo just get wider. To this day Polar Bears are one of the most controversial zoo animals - with even zoo enthusiasts often agreeing that their habitat incredibly difficult recreate. As Polar Bears see their habitats threatened by melting ice some zoos can play an important part in the conservation effort, however it is absolutely crucial that their natural environment is mimicked as closely as possible.
Enormous creatures, adult Polar Bears can weigh up to 650 kg and stretch to almost 3 metres. Their bodies are built for traversing the vast distances of their natural habitat, whether by land or across water. With bodily adaptations such as a thick layer of fur which covers almost the entire body, a small tail and ears and up to 10cm of blubber for insulation these bears are simply perfect for life on the ice. Lying in wait for the seals that make up the bulk of their diet, or travelling great distances which sometimes add up to over 3000km per year, the wild Polar Bear grows to easily rule over his huge, icy domain.
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