Polar Bear Conservation: International Polar Bear Day
February 27, 2013

Celebrate International Polar Bear Day Wednesday February 27th

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

February 27 is International Polar Bear Day, sponsored and led by Polar Bear International (PBI).

PBI is an advocacy group dedicated to research, education and action to protect the world's polar bear populations from extinction. PBI started International Polar Bear day to raise awareness of the bear's plight, and the damage that humans are inflicting with global warming. This year, PBI invites the public to join in by making Feb. 27 a day of action to reduce your carbon footprint.

First, they ask you and your family to take the Thermostat Challenge by adjusting your thermostat up or down a few degrees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. TakePart.com reports that lowering your thermostat 2 degrees in winter and raising it 2 degrees in summer could reduce your carbon footprint by about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. PBI also suggests installing a programmable thermostat to conserve energy.

The Thermostat Challenge is part of a new initiative at PBI called Save Our Sea Ice, or SOS!

SOS! Kicks off with International Polar Bear Day and continues all year, focusing attention on "the urgent challenges polar bears face in a changing Arctic."

Polar bears are found in only five nations; the US, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway. There are 19 wild populations of polar bears, with an estimated total of 20,000 to 25,000 individuals. Sixty percent of the total population lives in Canada, with the other four nations splitting the remaining 40 percent. According to PBI, of the 19 groups eight are in decline, three are stable, one is increasing and they have insufficient data on the other seven. Three of the polar bear nations have listed the species as either "threatened" or "of special concern": the US, Russia and Canada.

Earlier this month, redOrbit reported that University of Alberta professor Andrew Derocher and colleagues authored a policy perspective urging governments to take action now to protect the polar bear populations in the event of a catastrophic Arctic event.

“It´s a fact that early sea ice breakup, late ice freeze-up and the overall reduction in ice pack are taking their toll,” said Derocher. “We want governments to be ready with conservation and management plans for polar bears when a worst-case climate change scenario happens.”

The 2012 Arctic Report Card showed record lows in snow coverage and sea ice extent, redOrbit's own Lee Rannals reported. "The report shows a longer growing season with greener tundra, record high permafrost temperatures in northernmost Alaska, longer melt season ever seen on the Greenland ice sheet, and a nearly ice-sheet wide melt event in July.”

These reports highlight the need for a greater awareness of the ways human interaction is affecting the Arctic region and its top predator, the polar bear.

In addition to lowering your thermostat, you could also celebrate International Polar Bear Day by visiting a local zoo; many are hosting events to highlight the animals. For example:

-- The St. Louis Zoo is hosting a wide range of events, from kid-friendly games to a lecture given by their carnivore curator, Steve Bircher. They are also providing recycling stations for people to donate old cell phones and other small electrical appliances such as MP3 players and digital cameras.

"We need to realize that all living things and ecosystems are interdependent and that ice is a necessity for polar bear survival," Bircher told St. Louis Today. "Reducing our carbon footprint by cutting our energy use can slow and reverse climate change, which causes sea ice to melt. Polar bears rely on the sea ice to hunt their prey. By taking part in this initiative we can all show our commitment to a healthier planet and to saving these iconic animals."

-- Louisville Zoo in Kentucky is celebrating with two awards and a new exhibit. The first is PBI's Paw of Approval Award that "recognizes companies and organizations for their environmental leadership and commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. It will be given to Mayor Fischer in recognition of Louisville Metro´s first sustainability plan — Sustain Louisville." WHAS11 reports that the second award is like "the Oscars for the zoo and aquarium industry." The zoo's new polar bear exhibit, Glacier Run, is being given the 2012 Top Honors award for best new exhibit, presented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Glacier Run isn't just for polar bears, though. According to the zoo's website, it is "an imaginary gold mining town on the edge of the arctic wilderness“¦ based on the notion that humankind and nature must co-exist." Polar bears, grizzly bears, sea lions, seals and Stellar's sea eagles will all be on exhibit, in a town built to resemble Churchill, Manitoba at the turn of the century. Churchill is the polar bear capital of the world, boasting nearly as many bears as people during a few months of the year. At Glacier Run, there are animal training sessions and patron enrichment demonstrations daily, along with a multitude of opportunities to interact with and learn about the bears. There is also a Splash Park for the family to cool off in the summer.

Glacier Run has a famous inhabitant, Qannik (pronounced Kun'nik). Her name means "snowflake" in the Inupiaq language, and she is a 2 year old cub found abandoned in an oil field on Alaska's north slope in 2011 by ConnocoPhillips employees. Qannik has her own Twitter account, where you can keep up with her on a daily basis.

And, since it is INTERNATIONAL polar bear day, events like the following are taking place all over the world.

-- The Brisbane Times reports that Sea World will celebrate by giving their polar bears presents to raise awareness about the impact of global warming on the bear's survival chances.

-- The St. Petersburg Zoo in Russia also gave presents to their polar bears.

-- In Indonesia, the Jakarta Globe reminds us that is isn't just the bears being affected by global warming.

” On this International Polar Bear Day, it is important to think how we can do our bit to combat climate change and also take into consideration climate change´s multiple effects – from threatening endangered animals to threatening our food security.”