February 27th is officially INTERNATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY, but some high school teens in Cincinnati and Aurora, Indiana have already made a significant impact on the lives of polar bears. They are winners in a bi-national contest sponsored by Polar Bears International (PBI). Project Polar Bear is a way for small groups of young people to make a big difference! This contest challenges teens to create community projects that reduce carbon emissions to lessen global warming and, therefore, protect the polar bear’s Arctic habitat.
Overall, 23 teams from 12 states completed their projects for this contest.
Four of the six teams from Ohio and one from Indiana were registered with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, one of PBI’s 32 Arctic Ambassador Centers. The teams are the Care Bears from Seven Hills HS, the Three Garbateers from Roger Bacon HS, the Green Monsters from Mt. Healthy HS and Team Impact from South Dearborn HS in Indiana. These teams all qualified for the regional contest. The teams were coordinated under the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) which is a world leader in polar bear research. The teams’ projects were judged by members of CREW’s Conservation Committee who also serve on the Zoo’s Board of Trustees.
Dr. Len Sauers, VP at Proctor & Gamble who was one of the judges summed up the experience this way. “Choosing a winner was very difficult for the Conservation Committee as we received so many stellar entries. However the website developed by the Care Bears, which shows how individuals can track and reduce their carbon emissions through simple actions, was a creative approach and one that could lead to a very positive impact.”
CREW Director Dr. Terri Roth also applauded the teen’s efforts after reading their project reports. “I am totally impressed. It is not just about what the teams did, but their attitudes, enthusiasm, perseverance and optimism, not to mention how they engaged so many other groups, peers, adults and organizations in their cause”.
The Care Bears were judged the regional winners:
All teams were awarded framed certificates and various prizes from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, honoring their participation in the Project Polar Bear Contest. The Care Bears will move on as one of eight semi-finalist teams to compete in the bi-national contest.
PBI judges will announce four finalist teams in early March. These teams will advance to San Diego for an Awards Ceremony in April at SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo, where the Grand Prize and Second Place winners will be announced. The Grand Prize team wins a trip to Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears in the wild! The Second Place team wins a Beluga Interaction at Sea World. All four finalist teams win a trip to San Diego and free admission to SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo.
If you’re ready for some inspiration on what YOU can do to celebrate International Polar Bear Day, read the winning teams’ blog entries .
For more information on the CREW “Scientists for the Future” program click here.
As of May 2008, the U.S listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In Canada, polar bears are listed as a Species of Special Concern. Russia also considers the polar bear a species of concern.
What’s happening? Today, scientists have concluded that the threat to polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic from global warming. Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. Summer ice loss in the Arctic now equals an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined.
Polar bears range from Russia to Alaska, from Canada to Greenland, and onto Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Biologists estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 bears. About 60% of those live in Canada.
At the 2009 meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, scientists reported that of the 19 subpopulations* of polar bears:
- 8 are declining.
- 3 are stable.
- 1 is increasing.
By comparison, in 2005:
- 5 were declining.
- 5 were stable.
- 2 were increasing.
*Insufficient data to determine the fate of the other 7 populations
However, some Native communities in Canada are reporting an increase in the numbers of polar bears on land. Traditional hunters believe this means an increase in population. Others attribute it to bears being driven to land by lack of ice. We need data to understand the change.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states, “. . . extensive scientific studies have indicated that the increased observation of bears on land is a result of changing distribution patterns and a result of changes in the accessibility of sea ice habitat.”
Join our area teens in making a difference by lowering carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. What are YOU doing to reduce YOUR carbon footprint?