November 9, 2019
By Erica Rymer, Events and Marketing Coordinator
A BEARy merry Polar Bear Week to you!
Polar Bear Week, which this year is celebrated November 3-9, is an awareness event which coincides with the fall polar bear migration. During the summer, as rising temperatures melt the northern sea ice, these bears bide their time on land, relying on fat reserves for survival. In the fall they migrate back to the Hudson Bay and wait for the sea ice to reform so they can return to hunting seals. One of the greatest threats to polar bear populations is the rapid loss of sea ice due to climate change. This week’s events focus on the importance of sea ice, both to polar bears and the planet, and how we can take action on climate change to protect this majestic species.
Polar Bear Week is hosted by Polar Bears International (PBI), the only organization dedicated solely to the conservation of polar bears and their natural habitat. Since polar bears are considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, PBI conducts research and conservation projects in order to study and better protect this species.They focus on climate change solutions both on the individual level and on a global scale. They also educate the public about climate change and practical action through the help of Climate Ambassador Centers. These centers include zoos, museums and aquariums from across the country, such as your Akron Zoo, who are committed to research, education and conservation, as well as the reduction of carbon-emissions in their communities.
The Akron Zoo has three arctic ambassadors who work directly with PBI: Shane Good, Linda Criss, and Kathleen Balogh. All three have travelled to PBI’s headquarters in Churchill, Manitoba, where they participated in research and were equipped with the tools to combat climate change from home.
“We partner with PBI to understand the science behind climate change, as well as learn about their current research projects regarding polar bears,” said Kathleen Balogh, Akron Zoo animal care manager. “By understanding the impact of climate change and the knowledge gap surrounding it, we are able to strengthen our message to save our wildlife and the planet we share.”
Thanks to this partnership, the Akron Zoo has been keyed into many local and global sustainability programs over the years, including Plastic Free July, Earth Hour and the Thermostat Challenge. Not only do these events help us to change our own sustainability practices, but they also make an impact on our local community.
As part of Polar Bear Week, there are daily challenges and activities that the community is encouraged to participate in. For example, on Sunday guests to PBI’s website were encouraged to view a live Polar Bear Cam (link) showing polar bears making this year’s migration across the tundra. PBI also posts Tundra Connections (link) broadcasts, where visitors can learn about polar bears and ask questions.
Reducing our use of fossil fuels lowers carbon emissions and can make a huge impact on global warming, saving the sea ice that polar bears need for efficient hunting. Without sea ice, polar bears will decline in range and numbers, increasing the likelihood of future extinction. To get involved, visit PBI’s website (link), or come to one of your Akron Zoo’s many conservation events, found here (event calendar link).