Friday, 19 March 2010

Catching up with Mercedes

Not quite Canada, but she has space to roam now and the harsh weather this winter has made her feel quite at home! Mercedes, the Edinburgh Zoo polar bear, is now living in the Highlands of Scotland and has been enjoying the snow!

Image from news article on December 21st 2009.


Back at the end of July 2009 I mentioned her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo and the Centenary Appeal raising money to re-house her in a new purpose built enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park, near Kingusse.

Just three months later, and a three hour journey in a crate on the back of a lorry and Mercedes arrived in her new home. For those who can't view the video below I loved seeing her eye at a peep hole in the crate. I enjoyed seeing her wander about exploring her new estate too.


See video details here. Uploaded November 2nd 2009.


Estimated to be 27 years old, Mercedes will now spend the rest of her days in her new home. She could enjoy living here into her early 30’s. Mercedes, the only polar bear in a UK zoo, came to Edinburgh in 1984. Looking for a link to the Centenary Appeal I discovered a bit more of her history.

“She was rescued from her native Canada after she was scheduled to be shot. Unfortunately, she roamed into a nearby town in search of food and, as they are dangerous animals, this behaviour had to be discouraged. Initially, she was captured and the number ‘39’ was painted on her coat which allowed her to be tracked. On her third visit the decision was made to shoot her.

“Luckily, one of the Society’s life members enlisted the help of her cousin, a former Minister of Fisheries in Canada, who helped RZSS save her and provide a new home. Mercedes, the car company, assisted with the costs of her transport, hence her name.”

Image from news item 'In pictures', January 6th 2010


Naïve perhaps, but I never considered her name to have anything to do with the car at all. She has always, and still does, suit her name. It’s brilliant when major companies assist charities and wildlife like this helping to give a polar bear a life that has turned out to be a long one. Her story at the zoo goes on:

“When Mercedes first arrived she was paired with a male polar bear, Barney. They had two cubs, To-Nuik and Ohoto. For the past fifteen years Mercedes has been our only polar bear – which is the natural social state for this solitary animal."

“Mercedes’ keepers provide the highest possible standards of care and whilst her enclosure is adequate to meet her needs, public perception has always been that they would like to see her in a larger enclosure”

Hands up, as I said in my post back in June, I always felt uncomfortable seeing Mercedes in what looked to me like too small an enclosure. That is really why I planned an update post when she moved to the Highlands.

Image from 'animal pictures of the week', January 8th 2010.


Seeing Mercedes trudge through and roll in the snow of her enclosure for myself would have been fantastic. However, there was no way I’d take the car journey through snow covered roads… if they were open. As you can see, I have searched for snow images. Here you’ll find a flicker photostream if you’d like to see more.

At a cost of £300,000 for her new home at the Highland Wildlife Park, Mercedes is now in one of the largest polar bear enclosures in Europe. The Society was delighted when the army pledged to contribute their time and machinery to develop a state-of-the-art home for Mercedes. This meant that the new enclosure only cost the Society £75,000, which was raised through donations.

“Mercedes' new home features a large pool set in over four acres of land, which is typical of the polar bear’s tundra environment.

"Visitors will be able to watch Mercedes from both the main reserve and from a brand new viewing platform at the top of the hill, which will provide a unique insight into the natural behaviour of this wonderful and yet sadly endangered animal.”
You can see a plan of the enclosure below.

Image from Centenary Appeal.


This won’t be my last posting on Mercedes. I’m looking forward to making a trip up to see her myself at some point this year. I’d absolute love to be able to capture photos and video to share with you too.

It’s a sunny but wild, windy day here today. Hope its nice with you. Wishing you a good weekend, out and about and in the garden be it watching or working :-D


No images shown above belong to me. Please respect copyright.

10 comments:

Midmarsh John said...

A lovely account of Mercedes adventures. Pleased all turned out well.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a stroke of luck for Mercedes. I hope she enjoys her new habitat as much as the humans will. Most Polar Bears I have seen in zoos have far less room than this. Will there be other animals in the enclosure with her? Maybe just the native birds.

Southern Lady said...

Glad Mercedes is happy in her home. The North Carolina Zoo has polar bear exhibit. It is one of my favorite. The bears love to play in the water. There is a glass wall where visitors can see them swim underwater. Now that is an amazing sight! Thanks for sharing such a sweet story. Carla

Little Brown Job said...

Cracking shot's in the snow! She really does look right at home there :-)

Dan said...

What a brilliant post! Good luck to Mercedes in her new home and I'm sure she really enjoyed the snow back in December, and January, and February.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, and I really hope Mercedes enjoys her new big space!!

shirl said...

Hi there John, Lisa, Carla, Paul and Dan. I am delighted that you’ve all enjoyed hearing this story. I know it’s not quite gardenwatching but when my daughters were young we visited this zoo regularly and would see Mercedes there. I loved the story and wanted to share it. I am very keen to visit her in the Highlands now. Maybe when the schools are off in April :-)

Lisa, nope it appears she only has birds for company. I wonder if the elusive Scottish wildcat wanders by during the night :-)

Carla, yes, I would image that would be quite a sight! Edinburgh Zoo has a viewing area like that with their penguin enclosure and I’ve seen an area with hippos swimming at Berlin Zoo but seeing polar bears swim underwater would have to be the ultimate!!

Paul, don’t know if you followed the link to the photostream but there are some cracking shots there too :-D

Dan, looking forward to seeing this big space for myself!

Juliet said...

Lovely story, Shirl, and I hope you manage to get up to see Mercedes in her new home soon.

I enjoyed seeing your Crocus photos in your last couple of posts too :-D

A wildlife gardener said...

I am so glad to read the latest update about Mercedes, Shirl :)

As you might well know by now, I have never been in favour of wild animals kept in zoos...particularly the larger mammals...

...but, the best zoos are the ones which now try to breed and re-home the creatues they initially took from the wild and kept in cages for our amusement...

Thank you for the video and all the information in your wonderfully heart-warming post :)

The new habitat sounds ideal after all the years of incarceration...and I am ever so thankful Mercedes was not shot in Canada, all those years ago :)

Thanks for sharing that with us all, Shirl...well done to you :)

Chookie said...

Great story and I am glad she is enjoying the snow!

shirl said...

Hi again Juliet, WG and Chookie :-)

Juliet, Glad you liked it. I hope so too. The crocus were just a breath of Spring air weren’t they :-D

WG, yes I remember how you feel about Zoos. Conservation for me is the thing I like to see Zoos support and they can make a difference. Mercedes will have a happy ending I am very sure… which is great :-D

Chookie, glad you enjoyed it too! She looked quite at home in the snow didn’t she :-D