How much fun can you have with a hard hat? Just ask the lonely polar bear

By Suzannah Hills

Taking the plunge: Walker dives in after his favourite toy - a hard hat

You'd be amazed how much entertainment a polar bear can get out of a simple hard hat.

And Walker the polar bear proved there was no end to the games he could play with a workman's safety helmet when he managed to get his paws on one for an hour after his weigh in today at the Highland Wildlife Park.

His keepers spotted three-year-old Walker throwing the hat into the water before diving in to retrieve it and then practised balancing it on his paw and his nose.

Nearly got it: Walker sets his sights on grabbing the workman's safety hat

Missed it: Walker plunges into the pond, narrowly missing his beloved hat, which drifts off along the water at the Highland Wildlife Park

Walker's playtime was well-deserved after his weigh-in today - which showed he has grown considerably since first arriving at the park.

But Walker, the only polar bear on public display in the UK, had to first be lured on to the scales with his favourite fishy treats to allow keepers to weigh him.

Walker was given a trail of sardines to follow to tempt him on to a large wooden platform attached to a set of scales which revealed he has gained around 330lb in just over a year.

The three-year-old bear weighed in at 63 stone - when he arrived at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Inverness-shire in December 2010 he was around 39 stone.

Making a splash: Walker throws the hat up into the air before chasing after it again

Got it: Walker finally catches the pesky hat that kept giving him the slip

On the nose: Walker prepares to practice balancing his hard hat with varying degrees of success

It will be another two or three years before he is fully grown and by the age of six he will weigh an estimated 80-110 stone.

Una Richardson, the centre's head keeper, said: 'The weigh-in this morning with Walker went extremely well. We managed to tempt him on to the scales with a few of his favourites - sardines.

'We are really pleased with Walker’s weight. He’s a big boy at 403kg, which is around 63 stone. It’s slightly higher than what we had expected. We guessed he could be around 62 stone, which is around 395kg.

'It’s a good, healthy weight for a polar bear of his age and size and is close to the weight we had expected.

Dinner time: Keepers had to use sardines to lure Walker on to the scales to get weighed

Walker is weighed by Senior Keeper David Barclay at the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, Inverness-shire

Tongue rub: Walker gets a tongue rub after being weighed by Head Keeper Una Richardson

'After we took his weight reading he was off to play with his favourite toy - a hard hat - and enjoy the rest of his morning.

'Knowing precisely what he weighs gives us a very good indication of how well he is doing and, should we need to anaesthetise him for any reason or give him any medication, knowing what he weighs allows us to give him a more accurate and therefore a more effective dose.

'Weighing Walker is a two-person job. One of us has to be ready to take the weight reading and the other has to get Walker on to the scales.'

Una said Walker has become a favourite with visitors at the park, which is owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, because of his playful antics.

And she added that the UK could have a second polar bear on display by the end of this year.

Una continued: 'We have hopes of getting Walker a mate sometime this year but at the moment he is enjoying his bachelor lifestyle.'



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