Wildlife park polar bear Mercedes has been diagnosed with an incurable condition which may be causing her health to fail, it has been confirmed.
The 30-year-old female bear was moved from Edinburgh Zoo to a new, larger enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore two years ago.
Her severe arthritis is being treated with painkillers.
The park said in the future she may have to be put down on grounds of health and welfare.
Mercedes was joined by a young male bear called Walker last year. He will feature in future plans to breed polar bears at the park.
Mercedes was captured after being rescued from being shot in Canada and added to the animal collection at Edinburgh Zoo. She was relocated to the park at Kincraig in 2009.
Douglas Richardson, the park's animal collection manager, said 30 was extremely old for a polar bear.
He said: "Despite her mobility and joints not being what they once were, Mercedes still currently enjoys a good quality of life here at the Highland Wildlife Park, where she has been for almost two years now.
"We constantly liaise closely with both our internal vet team and external experts and our team of keepers are on hand to give her all the care she needs."
Simon Girling, a vet for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland which owns Edinburgh Zoo and the park, said her condition was diagnosed after her move north.
He said: "Mercedes suffers from advanced osteoarthritis, for which there is unfortunately no cure."
Mr Girling added: "This condition is seen in most elderly polar bears both in the wild and in captivity. We're managing her condition with various medication and pain relief, and we're currently trying her on some new medication.
"If Mercedes deteriorates further in the future and begins to suffer, it is probable that with sadness we will have to consider humane euthanasia on the grounds of health and welfare. However, we are not at this stage yet."
- 2 January 2011
- 12 November 2010