Tourists damaging Wojtek the bear statue with '˜lucky' nose rub

FIRST it was Greyfriars Bobby. Now the statue of Wojtek the bear has been damaged due to too many people rubbing his nose.
The statue of Wojtek the bear is showing signs of wear around its nose and ears. Picture: Jon SavageThe statue of Wojtek the bear is showing signs of wear around its nose and ears. Picture: Jon Savage
The statue of Wojtek the bear is showing signs of wear around its nose and ears. Picture: Jon Savage

Concerns have been raised regarding the condition of the statue of the beer drinking bear in Princes Street Gardens, with the worn material turning his nose a golden colour.

Author and Wojtek National Trust founder Aileen Orr, who wrote a book about the life of the bear, said that part of her book may reveal why people have been rubbing his nose.

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“I mentioned in the book that he liked his nose rubbed,” she said. “He loved the human touch and he would nuzzle into them.”

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Although Ms Orr does not want people to stop admiring the statue, she is concerned about the damage that has occurred in just two years.

She said: “The worry is that it has only been two years, so what will it be like in 50 years?

“I would encourage people to touch the memorial - but maybe leave his nose for a little while.”

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Following the damage the Greyfriars Bobby statue recently faced for the same reason, city centre councillor Joanna Mowat said something needs to be done to prevent this happening to future monuments in the city.

“We need to find ways going forward where we consider what materials we use when we commission future statues,” she said.

“I will have to find out what is causing the damage and what we can do to prevent it.”

Wotjek served with the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish army, before spending his last years in Edinburgh zoo.

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The unlikely soldier symbolises the relationship between Scotland and Poland.

Edinburgh Cultures and Communities Convenor Councillor Donald Wilson urged the public to be careful when admiring the statue.

He said: “The Wojtek statue attracts a lot of fond attention from locals and visitors alike.

“This wonderful and unique story means a lot to the people of Edinburgh and Poland.

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“It may seem harmless, but by rubbing his nose, people are actually vandalising the statue and causing expensive damage.

“We’d urge everyone to please treat this treasured monument with the care and consideration it deserves so that it can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Lauren Evans, 31, agreed that the public should take better care of the memorial so that future generations can enjoy it.

She said: “My son is 15 months old and if he was to grow up and then come back to Edinburgh with his husband or wife then I’d like it still to be there.”

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However, not everyone agreed that the memorial should be left untouched.

Velma and David Tingle, both 76, both agreed that the statue was lovely and should be touched.

“I think people want to stroke it because it looks like a real life animal,” said Ms Tingle.

And Carol Auld, 57, said: “I think if people are appreciating the art and they want to touch it, let them.”