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World's largest polar bear park opens in Sweden

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World's largest polar bear park opens in Sweden
13:01 CEST+02:00
Polar World, the world's largest polar bear park, opens today in Dalarna, Sweden. It is also the first park to engage in the breeding of the endangered species.

"I can't find the words to describe how proud we are to finally be able to open the park. The first idea took root in 2004, and now we have our first polar bears Ewa and Wilbär in their new home here," said Torbjörn Wallin, CEO of Orsa Grönklitt, of which Polar World is now a part.

"The international interest has been enormous," Wallin divulged in a statement released on Monday.

Polar World extends to 41,000 square metres and will open on Monday to the general public in Orsa, Dalarna. The facility incorporates a large deep water area, its own snow-making machinery and space for the bears to fish.

Furthermore visitors will able to gain information about the bears in the park's exhibition premises, amphitheatre and visitor information stations.

While polar bears are not today classified as an endangered species, with 20-25,000 currently living in the wild, the future is far from secure as a a result of the galloping pace of climate change and its impact on their natural habitat in the polar regions.

The World Wildlife Fund has launched a campaign in 2009 for "A Push for Change for Polar Bears" as part of its work to arrest climate change.

Polar World is designed to be used as a European breeding centre for polar bears as part of a broader project to preserve them. The park aims to house bears with a large genetic variation to enable regeneration if that were to become necessary in the future.

One of the bears that have already arrived in Orsa is Wilbär - whose moniker is a portmanteau combining the name Wilbur and Bär, the German word for bear. Wilbär has been transferred from Stuttgart zoo and has been introduced to his new lady friend Ewa from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

"Ewa is a stubborn lady of three years of age and Wilbär is a younger, curious lad. We now hope that cupid is on hand so that we can look forward to small polar bear cubs in the park to show off to the world," Torbjörn Wallin said.

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