Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The boys' club at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Pixel and Nissan at play

It is an unusual and wonderful arrangement for polar bears at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Instead of the usual single polar bear, or a male and female, YWP has four male polar bears living together, soon to be five male bears this fall.

The patriarch of the group, Victor, has been retired from breeding as he has already sired many cubs. The other three are young males, just on the brink of adulthood.

Victor guards his food from young Nobby
The fifth bear arriving this fall is an older bear, the last polar bear in Korea, from a zoo where they are wisely giving up keeping polar bears.

All during the spring breeding season, and well into the summer, the four bears were kept in two separate areas. While Nobby and Pixel had been great playmates, with the coming of Spring, Nissan became very possessive of Pixel's attentions and would chase away and threaten Nobby or Victor if they wanted to play with Pixel. Even if they were the same size, you could tell which was which by their body language. Nissan was always guarding the much larger Pixel.

Pixel on the right, with Nissan
While Nissan and Pixel share an enclosure, senior bear Victor and young Nobby  have had to work on their relationship by spending time in a second area. Previously Victor was quite stern with Nobby and his young companion would stay away. Now they are much more tolerant of each other's company.

Nobby playing by himself with a water toy
Nobby is also good at playing by himself, finding some toys and swimming about in one of the big ponds, playing his own little games.

Pixel and Nissan in one of the sheltering caves
Recently, with breeding season over, the four bears are visiting back and forth somewhat and getting reacquainted. Nobby and Pixel can be playmates again. Maybe, if Nissan allows it.

Victor being in charge over young Nobby
Victor was born in 1998 in Rostock, and has fathered 12 surviving cubs, plus grandchildren, so has been retired to Yorkshire as the senior gentleman of the group, as his genes are well represented in the European polar bear family. He will be 20 years old this fall, still young, but he acts as if he were much older but still enjoying the bounty of life.

Pixel and Nissan

Pixel is much larger than Nissan, but Nissan is dominant
Pixel and his twin sister Noordje were born in Nuenen, the Netherlands, in November of 2012, so Pixel is now five and a half years old. Their parents are Canadian wildborn Frimas and father Henk, one of Huggies' triplets. Henk's father is Victor, so Pixel is now living with his grandfather.

Pixel and Nissan

Nissan in front, Pixel in back
Nissan was born in the Gosudarstvenny Zoological Park in Russia in December of 2013 so is four and a half years old. His parents are wildborn Dumka and Moscow born Nord (brother of Vera).

Nissan, closest, Pixel facing us

Pixel and Nissan. The central holding area can be seen behind them.

Nissan and Pixel  with melon that was tossed into the water by keepers. In this way, the bears must forage for their food as they would in the wild.
Nobby and his twin sister Nela were born in Munich in December of 2013, so are the same age as Nissan. Their mother is Giovanna, and their father was the late Yoghi, both Italian bears. 

Video: Nobby playing

Nobby is good a playing by himself.

The keepers provide a variety of interesting toys.

Nobby with a log in the big pond.

The enclosures have sheltering caves to provide shade
 in summer and protection from wind in the winter.
 Here is Nobby.

Nobby at play He has just hauled the blue canister out of the pond.

Pixel's twin sister Noordje and Nobby's twin sister Nela are now living together, with Bremerhaven sisters Lale and Lili in Emmen, the Netherlands in another newly built zoo. At this zoo, there are only young girl polar bears at Emmen. Noordje is the oldest.

Victor with his meaty snack. Nobby comes near but won't dare take it.
Victor was the first to arrive at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, in August of 2014. Victor's grandson Pixel came next, in March of 2015. Nissan arrived later that year in October. Nobby came in February of 2016.

A fifth polar bear will be arriving in November. Tongki, a 24 year old male, has been living in a too small enclosure in Everland Theme Park south of Seoul Korea, but he will be coming to YWP to enjoy good companionship and wild open spaces.

Victor approaches and Nobby runs away.
Project Polar is an innovative habitat for the bears, based on the spacious natural habitats at Highlands Wildlife Park in Scotland.

 Yorkshire Wildlife Park is built on a former farm visitor center, and the vision was to provide habitats for rescued zoo animals, and other zoo animals needing a home. It opened in 2009 with a hundred acres.  

Several of the 13 rescued Romanian lions.
There are eight left, living in several separated areas.
In February, 2010, the park rescued 13 Romanian lions from desperate circumstances, and gave them a 10 acre home. 

Land of the Tigers opened in 2011, followed by Leopard Heights, the largest leopard enclosure in the world. Here you can see the extremely rare Amur Leopard.

Amur Leopard

The entrance to the polar bear area.
Project Polar, one of the largest habitats for polar bears in the world, opened in the summer of 2014 with the arrival of Victor.

Ringed lemur family. Two of the moms have babies right now.
YWP also has a wonderful lemur walk-through habitat, African painted dogs, several black rhinos, giraffes, zebras,  recently arrived okapis, and so much more.

Makibo, the black rhino with the frilly ears.

One of the Amur tigers, one of the ladies, I believe.
The polar bears are currently enjoy three large rolling habitats with pools, and a central holding area, and the park is creating a fourth habitat.
Pixel and Nissan in the wanter.
During my visit, most of the fun was with watching Pixel walk about and Nissan guard him, rarely leaving his beloved friend. They would spar and fight and play. Nissan would get very jealous when Nobby was near the fence, and would try to get Pixel away. Nobby would stand by the fence, curious, but also wanting to play with Pixel, his old playmate.

Pixel leads the way, Nissan is not far behind.
Nobby wants to play too,
 but it would be too dangerous when Nissan is so possessive of Pixel.
This was in May.
 At present the four bears are being reintroduced to each other.

The keepers suspect that this is because the young boys have no female bears, and are practicing courtship behavior anyway. Nissan seems to be the most sexually mature of the three youngsters. Nobby is behind them in development.

Pixel, the oldest of the three, weighs 500 Kilo,, and Nissan is 360 kilo. You can really see the difference. Nobby weighs 330 kilo, and old Victor is the largest, lumbering about at 630 kilo.

With the springtime mating season over, and hormones stabilizing, the four bears are being introduced to each other. Pixel and Victor are enjoying roughhousing. Nobby is also happy to have Pixel back as his playmate.

Pixel on the left, Nissan on the right

The keepers will be bringing in the new bear, Tongki, in November when hormones will be at their lowest ebb. It will be interesting to see how the two senior bears get along, Victor and Tongki.

And now we have just heard that four rare Ussuri brown bears from Japan will be coming to the rehabilitation center in the YWP.  It is all part of the YWP's mission to provide homes for animals in need. These new bears will be arriving very soon. 

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park will mark its 10th anniversary next year, and already it has made its mark on the world of animal conservation.

Victor lets Nobby know who is in charge.
Victor, the oldest bear at present.


  1. Dear Molly,

    What fantastic report from YWP - entertaining with lots of information. For instance, I had no idea Victor is Pixel's grandfather!

    I'm always especially happy seeing photos of Nobby. I saw him in Munich when he was a cub and since then he's been 'one of my bears'. :-)

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Hugs from Mervi

  2. Thank you Molly for the nice and interesting report from the YWP.
    I'm looking forward to Tongki and I'm curious if he gets along with the guys especially with Victor.

    Bear Hugs from NurnBĂ„Rg

  3. Molly I visited the YWP just before you, so it is wonderful to have this record of the animals there.