Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy Father's Day to Victor

Victor enjoys his Project Polar home.

Serving as the elder statesman of polar bears at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the UK, Victor is enjoying his retirement in the company of an unusual polar bear group, with Victor and three younger males sharing several large rambling habitats.

The rocky slopes of Project Polar.
The senior bear at YWP, Victor, has fathered 13 cubs with three different mothers. One of his current companions is his grandson, Pixel.

Victor roaming along the lake
Victor was born in Rostock Germany in December of 1998, so he will be 20 years old this fall, still fairly young. But he has fathered so many cubs, and his sister Victoria (1996), Vilma (2002, died last year), twins Valeska and Venus (2004) have also given us lovely cubs, and the family of their parents Churchill and Vienna are well represented in the polar bear population. The sixth of the "V" cubs, Vitus (2000) is considered sterile. In the summer of 2014, Victor was sent to Doncaster to the YWP as the first bear in Project Polar. 

Victor on the rolling rocky hillside
The ladies in his life

Victor has spent most of his life in Ouwehands Zoo in Rhenen, the Netherlands, where he first shared quarters with older polar bear lady Vera (21), who gave birth to his son Rocky in the fall of 2002, when Victor was just four years old. (Rocky now lives in a zoo in Belgium with Blanche and their daughter Qannik born in 2011.)

2002 was a very busy year at Ouwehands Zoo. In March, mother polar bear Huggies returned to Rhenen from her stay in Sweden, with her 4 month old daughter Freedom. In August, just before Rocky was born, Victor was sent to the Amsterdam Zoo, where he lived for a year in a very sad bear pit, to allow Huggies room to care for her cub. In December, shortly after Victor left, Vera gave birth to Rocky.

I don't have a lot of information about Vera, just that she was born in 1981, and died at age 27 in 2008 in Skandanavisk Dyreparke in Kolind, Denmark, which opened their polar bear habitat in 2006. Rocky was her only cub, I believe.

Huggies was wildborn on Wrangle Island in Russia in 1993, and rescued as a young cub from an ice floe. She was sponsored by the diaper company Kimberly Clark and flown to the Netherlands, where she lived for four years, then moved to Kolmarden Sweden, where she gave birth to daughter Freedom in December of 2001. Then she and the cub moved back to Ouwehands in early 2002. months later.

Freedom with cubs

More cubs

Huggies with one of Freedom's cubs at Ouwehands Zoo
Between mother and daughter, Huggies and Freedom, Victor sired a dozen cubs.

In 2005, Huggies created a sensation in Ouwehands when she gave birth to triplets, Henk, Ewa and Jelle, all three named after keepers. Henk is now in Nuenen, the Netherlands, Ewa is in Orsa in Sweden, and Jelle is in St. Felicien in Canada.

Henk, one of the triplets, now in Nuenen
Freedom gave birth to Sprinter in December of 2007.  In February 2010 he moved to that tiny enclosure in Amsterdam, for just two months, but then to a wonderful big place in Hannover, Germany.

Sprinter, on top, inherited the fierce large head
of Victor's father Churchill.
 He now lives in Hannover Germany with his friend Nanuq
Huggies gave birth to Walker and Swimmer in December, 2008, filmed and shown as part of BBC's Frozen Planet. Swimmer stole everyone's hearts in the coming out of the den video put out by the zoo, for he was so tiny compared to big Walker. Then there was that very sad Sunday in March, 2009, when Swimmer did not come out of the water after swimming with his mother. Something in his chest had burst, and he had died. Huggies retrieved his little body and the polar bear family grieved.
Walker on the right, with his friend Arktos
in Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland
So there was just Walker. When he was 2 years old, in May 2010, Walker moved to Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland where he lives with his friend Arktos, and across the park are Victor's sister Victoria and her cub Hamish.

So by summer of 2010, it was just Victor, Huggies and Freedom at Ouwehands. 
But then in November, 2010 Freedom gave birth to Sesi and Siku (later Taiko).  The next year it was Huggies' turn.

In December 2011 Huggies had twins, Lynn and Luka. At this point, the two moms, mother and daughter, were dealing with four cubs between them, and it seemed to work to raise them together in the large enclosure with that wonderful deep pool. These were amazing days, with Freedom and her older cubs, and Huggies and her younger cubs, splashing and playing for the visitors and on the Explore webcam broadcast around the world.  Two moms and four cubs all living together.

Eventually, these four cubs grew up on went on their way.  Sesi moved to Mulhouse in France and Siku became Taiko and went to LaFleche in France. Lynn moved to Vienna and then to Copenhagen.  Luka went to Wuppertal in Germany. 

Victor's son Luka in Wuppertal
Victor had played his part, as father to so many cubs, but while the moms raised the babies, like other polar bear fathers, he spent his days in the old enclosures off to the side, alone.

Akiak and Sura with mom Freedom
In August of 2014, Victor retired to Doncaster in the UK but not before adding to his legacy. In November 2014, a few months after Victor left, Akiak and Sura were born to Freedom.

Victor has grandchildren too. 

Henk fathered Pixel and Noordje, who were born in 2012, and Nickie and Simona, born in 2015, in Nuenen, with Frimas as Mom. Five year old Pixel now lives in YWP with his granddad Victor.

Two of Victor's companions at YWP are his grandson Pixel, on the left,
and Russian bear Nisson, on the right.
Sesi is mother to Nanuq in Mulhouse Zoo in France, with Vicks as the father.
Victor's daughter Sesi, with his granddaughter Nanuq
Life in YWP

Young Nobby carefully approaches Victor
Victor enjoys his naps and wandering around the many wild acres at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. For a long time, he and Nobby did not get along, or maybe Nobby was afraid of him, but now harmony is restored.

Victor with a chunk of meat. Nobby sniffs, then walks away.
 He would never steal meat from Victor.

Victor chases after Nobby.

Victor catching up with Nobby
Project Polar area has three large enclosures with large ponds, and they are planning to open another area, to make this the largest polar bear habitat in Europe.

Victor at the lake.
Victor with his keepers. Sometimes he likes to be inside.

The bears can choose to be out and about, or to be in the nighttime shelter, whenever they like. There are often ducks to chase, and many good things to eat and play with are hidden here and there by the keepers. Life is good in retirement.

Victor on the move.
In another story, I will tell about the three young bears who are companions to Victor, as the park looks forward to welcoming a new bear from Korea to Project Polar.

Taking a stroll through Project Polar.
 The habitat resembles the Canadian Tundra with its terrain and plants.

Handsome Victor

No comments:

Post a Comment