Yorkshire Wildlife Park has won an award for its work creating a polar bear reserve dedicated to their conservation.
The Gold Award was presented by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) for the park’s Project Polar initiative which created a unique 10-acre reserve which is home to four male polar bears.
The award recognises the park’s work in establishing the large, naturalistic polar bear reserve with dens, pools and rolling landscapes. The park’s enclosure is home to Victor, Pixel, Nissan and Nobby.
“It is fantastic to receive the award for something we care passionately about and work hard at,” said Simon Marsh, animal collections manager at the park, based at Branton, near Doncaster.
“We wanted to show that polar bears in our care can be kept to a very high standard and address all their welfare and husbandry needs.”
Polar bears are classed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and the Polar Bear Specialist Group acknowledge the need for a healthy captive polar bear population.
The park works with international conservation agencies and academic institutions to study polar bears and increase their chances of survival as their natural Arctic habitats are reduced by global warming.
The £1.2 million Project Polar is home to Victor, Pixel, Nissan and Nobby.
The project was also praised for sourcing local materials and suppliers during construction and for effectively creating a landscape – with 900 mature Scots pines, silver birch, willow and heathers – that replicates the Arctic tundras. The reserves also provide shade and 8-metre deep lakes to keep cool while visitors can observe the bears from a raised walkway with panoramic views.
“Project Polar has been a success, not only for the polar bears in our care but for promoting good animal and polar bear welfare across zoos and BIAZA members,” added Mr Marsh.