Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 16:47 UK

Soldiers build polar bear's home

Mercedes the polar bear
Mercedes has lived at Edinburgh Zoo since 1984

A team of territorial soldiers, usually charged with building army bases in Afghanistan, is making a home for the UK's only polar bear.

The 75 Engineer Regiment are working on a four-acre enclosure for Mercedes at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie.

Mercedes is moving from her current home at Edinburgh Zoo later this year.

The regiment, which has centres in Warrington, Stoke-on-Trent, Birkenhead and Failsworth, is involved through Military Aid to the Civil Community.

Costs cut

Lt Col Henry Ricketts, Commanding Officer of 75 Engineer Regiment, said: "As Royal Engineers, it is vital for us to keep on top of our construction skills.

"Moving from north-west England to Scotland gives us chance to complete some challenging tasks in an unfamiliar environment.

"We can also make a real contribution to the community by providing worthwhile causes with some new infrastructure."

Costs for building Mercedes' home will be a quarter of the £300,000 originally estimated, thanks to the team of 80 soldiers.

Canada rescue

Gary Wilson, director of business operations for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which owns Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, said: "As we are a charity, assistance such as this is of great benefit to us and we are extremely grateful for their support."

The park claims the polar bear enclosure will be the largest in Europe, with a large pool and a natural tundra.

Mercedes has lived at Edinburgh since 1984 after she was rescued from her native Canada.

In addition to the bear home, the soldiers will be building a new cattle grid and help develop a woodland walk.

They will also go to the RSPB's Fairy Glen nature reserve near Rosemarkie to build a new footbridge.

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