First UK Polar Bear in 25 Years Born at Scottish Zoo

Polar bears Victoria and Arktos interact in Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Kingussie, Scotland in this undated photo obtained from social media. COURTESY of RZSS Highland Wildlife Park polar bear breeding /via REUTERS
Polar bears Victoria and Arktos interact in Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Kingussie, Scotland in this undated photo obtained from social media. COURTESY of RZSS Highland Wildlife Park polar bear breeding /via REUTERS
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First UK Polar Bear in 25 Years Born at Scottish Zoo

Polar bears Victoria and Arktos interact in Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Kingussie, Scotland in this undated photo obtained from social media. COURTESY of RZSS Highland Wildlife Park polar bear breeding /via REUTERS
Polar bears Victoria and Arktos interact in Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Kingussie, Scotland in this undated photo obtained from social media. COURTESY of RZSS Highland Wildlife Park polar bear breeding /via REUTERS

A polar bear cub has been born in Britain for the first time in 25 years, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said on Wednesday.

Mother polar bear Victoria is believed to have given birth at the Highland Wildlife Park in northeastern Scotland after staff heard high pitched cries in late December.

“We first heard promising noises in the week before Christmas and these have now continued into the new year,” said Una Richardson, the park’s head keeper.

“Because we don’t have sight inside her cubbing box we can’t be sure if Victoria has had more than one cub but we can confirm the birth,” she added.

Polar bears are known for their need for privacy and newborns are extremely delicate, so the maternity den is closed to visitors at the zoo. The survival of the cub or cubs will not be fully confirmed until March, when bears emerge after winter.

“While we are absolutely thrilled, we are not celebrating prematurely as polar bear cubs have a high mortality rate in the first weeks of life due to their undeveloped immune system and the mother’s exaggerated need for privacy, with any disturbance risking the cub being killed or abandoned,” Richardson said.

Polar bears are born about 30 cm long and weigh roughly the same as a guinea pig. They emerge blind and do not open their eyes until they are about a month old, depending entirely on their mother’s milk.

The last polar bear cubs born in the UK were twins at Flamingo Land in Yorkshire on 8 December 1992.



India’s Monsoon Rains a Fifth Below Normal So Far

Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)
Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)
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India’s Monsoon Rains a Fifth Below Normal So Far

Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)
Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)

India's monsoon has delivered a fifth less rain than normal so far this season, the weather department said on Monday, in a worrying sign for the vital agricultural sector.

Summer rains, critical to economic growth in Asia's third-largest economy, usually begin in the south around June 1 before spreading nationwide by July 8, allowing farmers to plant crops such as rice, cotton, soybeans, and sugarcane.

India has received 20% less rainfall than normal since June 1, according to data compiled by the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD), with almost all regions except for a few southern states seeing shortfalls and some northwestern states experiencing heat waves.

The rain shortfall in soybean, cotton, sugarcane, and pulses-growing central India has risen to 29%, while the paddy-growing southern region received 17% more rainfall than normal due to the early onset of the monsoon, according to the data.

The northeast has received 20% less rainfall than normal so far, and the northwest some 68% less.

The lifeblood of the nearly $3.5-trillion economy, the monsoon brings nearly 70% of the rain India needs to water farms and refill reservoirs and aquifers.

In the absence of irrigation, nearly half the farmland in the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar depends on the annual rains that usually run until September.

"The monsoon's progress is stalled. It has weakened. But when it revives and becomes active, it can erase the rain deficit in a short burst," an IMD official told Reuters.

The official sought anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Heat wave conditions are likely to prevail in northern states for a few more days, but temperatures could start coming down from the weekend, the official added.

The maximum temperature in India's northern states is ranging between 42 and 47.6 degrees Celsius (107.6 to 117.7 degrees Fahrenheit), about 4-9 C above normal, the IMD data showed.