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Polar bear cub a big summer hit

The birth of a male polar bear cub has proved to be a jackpot for the Ranua Wildlife Park in Lapland. Since first poking his nose out of the family den in February, he has charmed 55,000 visitors, nearly doubling ticket sales for the park's zoo.

Jääkarhunpentu uimassa Ranuan eläinpuistossa.
Image: Vesa Vaarama / Yle

So far the furry white fellow does not have a name, but one indication of his popularity is that a contest to find him one has drawn over 15,000 entries.

The cub and his popularity have given the Ranua Wildlife Park a major boost. Holiday cabins are going up nearby and the park is being promoted at a number of European travel fairs. Now operators are anxious to see how many tourists from central and southern Europe will find their way to Ranua this coming autumn and winter.

"They are coming, and contracts are in place with tour operators," says Mikko Sarajärvi, Chairman of the Board of the Ranua Wildlife Park.

At least for Finnish visitors, there is no question of who is worthwhile seeing.

"The other [animals] are nice, but really, this one is the star," said Samuli Lintula, who came up from Helsinki to see the cub.

"This is what I came for. He is so cute and so great. I have a toy polar bear on my bed and a polar bear calendar and I'm going to buy all the polar bears from that shop over there and take them home," announced Katja Salonkari, a visitor from Jyväskylä.

Polar bears rarely breed successfully in captivity and the birth of the cub at Ranua in November was a major media event.

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