Page last updated at 05:49 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 06:49 UK

Climate role for only polar bear

Mercedes will be transported in a modified rhino crate

The only polar bear in a UK zoo will be used to help educate visitors to her new home in the Highlands.

Preparations are being made to move Mercedes from Edinburgh to the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig.

The park's Doug Richardson said information on climate change and its effects on wildlife would be set up around the animal's enclosure.

A crate used for moving rhino has been modified to transport the bear by road in late August or early September.

Mr Richardson, animal collection manager, said: "Polar bear are seen as the flagship species for warnings of global climate change.

The cubs have seen the park breaking all sorts of records
Doug Richardson
Highland Wildlife Park

"Something we plan to do on this big issue is to centre a lot of our interpretive material on climate change around Mercedes."

He expects the bear to be a huge draw, adding to an increase in visitor numbers seen following the birth of three Amur tiger cubs.

Mr Richardson said: "The cubs have seen the park breaking all sorts of records in terms of entries and sales at the gift shop.

"The arrival of the polar bear will be the icing on the cake."

He said the more money that could be generated, the more funds could be channelled into the park's research work and conservation projects.

New enclosure

Mr Richardson added that Mercedes would not need be drugged for her journey to the Highlands.

The crate has been attached to part of her enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo so the bear becomes familiar with it.

It has also been designed to allow air flow and provide shade for the animal if the weather is hot.

Mr Richardson said: "Moving polar bears is quite straightforward and they do not stress out particularly easily so long as there are people around them that they are familiar with."

Rescued from Churchill in Canada, Mercedes is thought to be 27-years-old. Polar bears can live into their early 30s.

An appeal was launched last month by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to raise £50,000 to fund her move north.

Original estimates put the cost of a new enclosure at £300,000 but a team of soldiers helped build the enclosure, which reduced the cost to £75,000.

The society has also raised £25,000 through donations.

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