As parts of northern England were covered in frost, Hamish – the first polar bear to be born in the UK in 25 years – embarked on a 400-mile journey to his new home.
The cub, who has shared an enclosure with his mother, Victoria, in the Scottish Highlands for the past two and a half years, was transported to Yorkshire on Wednesday.
Hamish was born in December 2017 at Highland Wildlife Park, near Aviemore, and his name was chosen through a public vote.
Since his birth thousands of people have visited the park to catch a glimpse of him. However, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) had always planned to move him to another zoo once he was old enough to leave his mother.
Earlier this year the wildlife conservation charity announced that he would be moving to Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s Project Polar habitat following a recommendation from the European Endangered Species Programme.
Rachel Williams, senior animal keeper at Highland Wildlife Park, said it was a natural time for the playful cub to move on but that he would be missed, although his mother would finally get to enjoy some quiet time.
“In the wild, polar bear cubs will stay with their mothers for two to three years, so this is a natural time for Hamish to be moving on,” she said.
She added: “It has been an incredible two and a half years watching him grow and he will be missed by everyone here at the park.
“[But] we’re sure Victoria will appreciate some peace and quiet before any next steps in the breeding programme.”
Hamish’s father, Arktos, remains in an enclosure in another part of the Scottish park. Williams said Victoria and Arktos could be “paired up” again next year.
David Field, RZSS’s chief executive, said Hamish had been an incredible ambassador for his relatives in the wild, playing a crucial role in educating the public about threats faced by many species.
“A critical part of our role as a wildlife conservation charity is education. Hamish has made a tremendous impression on the thousands of people who visited the park since his birth two and a half years ago, and the billions who saw the news around the world,” he said.
He added: “He has helped to highlight the threats many species face in the wild and the changes we can undertake to really make a difference.
“Changes in the Arctic climate mean the sea ice that wild polar bears, and other animals, depend on for survival is shrinking and it is predicted this will significantly decrease population numbers over the next 40 years.”
Hamish made the seven-hour journey to Doncaster by road. Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s head of animals, Dr Matt Hartley, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Hamish to Project Polar where he will join our other male bears.
“Our expansive reserves allow social interaction, play, exploration and behavioural development that is vital for bear wellbeing.”