Polar Bear Day Promotes Conservation
Leningrad Zoo has been a leader in polar bear breeding programs since the 1930s
Published: February 27, 2014 (Issue # 1799)
International Polar Bear Day, an awareness-raising event created by Polar Bear International, the world’s largest polar bear conservation group, to honor the might and majesty of one of Earth’s most iconic creatures, is being celebrated Feb. 27 this year.
The Leningrad Zoo, whose logo includes a polar bear, celebrated the day this past weekend, offering visitors an interactive exhibition and the opportunity to watch live feedings while children made toys for the popular bears.
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Polar Bear International suggests a variety of ways to celebrate Polar Bear Day. The first and easiest thing is to turn the thermostat down by at least two degrees and try to make temperature reductions a habit. PBI also wants its supporters to take photos of themselves “bundled up” for polar bears in their now-colder homes and share them on the organization’s website.
PBI hopes this will build support and inspire others to think about the problems these bears face in a warming Arctic environment. The ice that once covered the surface of the Arctic Ocean is rapidly melting and polar bears are finding it more and more difficult to hunt and breed. As a result, scientists predict they could become extinct within the next 40 years.
“Our research shows that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be gone by the middle of the century unless we take action to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Steve Amstrup, PBI’s chief scientist.
“The Thermostat Challenge raises awareness of how our daily actions impact the polar bear’s sea ice habitat. By taking part in this initiative, we can lower our carbon emissions and show our commitment to action on climate change.”
Related: Zoo Invites Locals to Name Bear Cub
Polar bears themselves are also being used to promote their own conservation. Siku, a polar bear born in a Scandinavian wildlife park two years ago and raised by zookeepers, is used as an ambassador for his less tame relatives living in the Arctic Circle and reminds people to reduce their carbon footprint and save energy.
Leningrad Zoo has been a leader in polar bear breeding programs since the 1930s. The polar bears there, Uslada and Menshikov, reproduce every two years. Their 16th cub was born in December 2013. Only Menshikov celebrated Polar Bear Day this year, however, while Uslada stayed in their den nursing a newborn cub.
Although the gender of the bear cub is still unknown, the zoo will hold a competition to determine the cub’s name once its gender has been announced. According to the zoo’s predictions, Uslada and the cub will emerge from their den in May. At the moment, the zookeepers observe the bears in their den using a closed-circuit video feed.
The population of polar bears in Russia is estimated to be anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 bears, approximately a quarter of all polar bears believed to be still alive in the world.