Polar bear cub helps almost double visitor numbers at wildlife park
Visitor numbers at a wildlife park have almost doubled following the birth of the first polar bear in the UK for 25 years last December.
Hamish was born at Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie in the week before Christmas last year and took his first steps outside in March.
His arrival has boosted visitor numbers at the park, which welcomed its 200,000th visitor of the year on December 8.
In 2017, Highland Wildlife Park welcomed 122,538 visitors.
Before 2018, the best year for visitor numbers was 2016 when 136,704 people made a trip to the park.
Daska Mackintosh, Highland Wildlife Park’s head of operations and visitor services, said: “We’ve had an incredible year and reaching 200,000 visitors is a phenomenal milestone.
“I’m very proud of the whole team here at the park, who have worked exceptionally hard to provide excellent customer service over the course of our busiest year ever.”
She added: “As a charity, we depend on every visitor to help us carry out vital conservation work here in Scotland and across the world.
“Hamish’s arrival has helped us to highlight the threats that many wild animals are facing and the small changes we can make to really make a big difference.
“Being home to the UK’s only polar bear cub has been fantastic for us and the local area.
“It’s great to see so many more visitors experiencing the stunning views and great days out that Cairngorms National Park has to offer.”
The park will celebrate Hamish’s first birthday on Tuesday December 18 and people who share his name or date of birth can get free entry to the venue on the day.
He was born to mother Victoria, who mated with Arktos, one of two male polar bears at the park.
His name was chosen following a public vote in which Hamish received around 21,000 of the 33,000 votes cast, beating Artor, MacKinnon and Poulsen.