Category — Polar Bear International
Join us in celebrating International Polar Bear Day by taking Polar Bear International’s Thermostat Challenge to save energy for polar bears—and then make it a habit. At the Cincinnati Zoo, we believe in being responsible with our natural resources, which includes reducing our carbon emissions on behalf of future polar bear – and human – generations to come!
Did you know that heating and cooling account for roughly half the energy consumption in an average home? If every American adjusted their thermostat by just one degree, it would save as much energy as the entire state of Iowa uses in a whole year!
When we burn fossil fuels like coal and gas for energy, those activities release more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. This buildup of carbon acts like a thickening blanket around the earth, trapping in excess heat and disrupting our climate. As global temperatures rise, the amount of sea ice available for bears is continually reducing. Polar bears require sea ice for efficient hunting of their primary prey, seals. On average, it takes 45 seals a year to feed one adult polar bear. Without sea ice, polar bears will decline in range and numbers, making them vulnerable to extinction in the future. The key here is that our community’s daily activities have an impact on the Arctic and the animals that live there. In order to ensure that these wildlife and wild places will be thriving years down the road, it is our responsibility to take action now and reduce the amount of carbon our societies create.
So join us in saving polar bears by turning your thermostat down two degrees this winter, and encourage your family and friends to do it, too. It will give you a good excuse to pull that Snuggie out of the closet and wear those new fuzzy slippers you got over the holidays.
February 27, 2016 No Comments
Today, let’s celebrate International Polar Bear Day with some fun facts illustrated by some of our own bears, past and present.
Polar bears are survival specialists in an extreme environment—the Arctic, where winter lasts six months and temperatures average -30ºF. Their large body size, thick fur coat and several-inch layer of blubber provide insulation from the cold, in and out of the water.
Here we can certainly get an idea of just how big a polar bear can be. Reaching weights up to 1,500 lbs, a large male can reach heights of more than 10 feet when standing up on its hind legs.
Check out those paws! Each one is the size of a dinner plate! They act like snowshoes, spreading out the bear’s weight as it walks across the snow and ice.
Polar bears have super sniffers. The polar bear can sniff out seals, their favorite prey, from miles away and even detect seals that are hiding underneath several feet of snow.
Their streamlined shape, partially webbed front paws and buoyant layer of blubber make polar bears champion swimmers. In the wild, bears are able to swim for hundreds of miles at a time between ice floes, from which they hunt seals. As our global climate warms, the sea ice continues to shrink, making it increasingly difficult for polar bears to hunt seals and reproduce.
The Zoo partners with Polar Bears International as an Arctic Ambassador Center to help save polar bears and their habitat by reducing carbon emissions to curb climate change and encouraging our supporters to do the same. Here at the Zoo we are doing our part to use energy more efficiently by generating renewable energy through solar panels and geothermal wells and employing green building practices.
We also have a brand new Red Bike Station located at the Zoo’s entrance. Next time you come to the Zoo, consider riding a bike to save on fossil fuels (once all this snow and ice is gone, of course). Check out some other ways you can take action for polar bears suggested by Polar Bears International.
Learn how the Zoo’s Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) is also working to save polar bears with science.
February 27, 2015 2 Comments
According to Elvis, it’s going to be another disappointing year for polar bear births. There is no pregnancy test for polar bears, but Elvis, a 3-year old beagle who lives at IronHeart High Performance Working Dogs, is being evaluated on his ability to diagnose pregnancy by smelling fecal samples (to read more about Elvis and his training, click here). Polar bears experience low reproductive rates world-wide but are exceptionally challenging to study because traditional methods of pregnancy detection, such as progesterone analysis, don’t distinguish pregnancy from pseudo-pregnancy this species. The 17 potential polar bear moms involved in this year’s Elvis study reside in zoos as close as Columbus and as far as Copenhagen. Last year, Elvis was 93% accurate in his pregnancy predictions. If his diagnostic accuracy is similar to last year, we’ll be lucky if just one or two bears have cubs.
But while Elvis sniffs poop, scientists at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) are using cutting-edge research to figure out which components of a fecal sample Elvis might be recognizing in an effort to develop a laboratory-based pregnancy test. A pregnancy test would allow them to determine where the reproductive process is failing so that potential causes can be addressed. A polar bear pregnancy test wouldn’t just be useful for bears in zoos- it could also help their wild cousins. Since the test would rely on a fecal sample, it could be used to non-invasively monitor wild populations of polar bears, whose numbers are predicted to decline.
Unfortunately, the Elvis test showed that “Berit”, the Cincinnati Zoo’s female is not pregnant again this year and so far, there’s been no other word of cub arrivals. Polar bears can give birth anytime from October to January, so Elvis will need to wait a few more weeks to find out how he performed.
To make a donation to CREW’s polar bear research, please visit the Polar Bear Challenge webpage. Donations made by Dec 31st will be matched dollar for dollar by the Young Family Foundation.
December 10, 2014 2 Comments