It’s hard to believe how fast time is flying. It seems just last week we were still wondering if we’d be hearing the pitter patter of cub paws (see post Polar Bears: Waiting May Be Over). Now the air is filled with roaring earth movers, jack hammers, and concrete mixers as the work is progressing for the new educational experience at the San Diego Zoo’s Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge.
Our cool trio is having a great time watching all the commotion. We think Kalluk wants to know why he can’t have a hard hat to wear, and Tatqiq would like them to all stop working and play with her at the glass. Chinook poses by the rock playing hard to get when she lures the contractors over for a peek.
The rest of us are busy spreading the word about all the great new changes we’ll be unveiling on March 26. I’ve been in New York travelling with Rick Schwartz, the Zoo’s ambassador, and Megan Owen, a conservation researcher for the Zoo, teaming up to speak with journalists and reporters from all kinds of media. (see Rick’s post Meeting with Media in Manhattan). My special assignments included speaking at the New York Public library to an after-school program for kids and speaking to master’s students from Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
The program for kids showed how our polar bears are ambassadors for wild polar bears and can connect everyone to care enough to help polar bears in the Arctic. The younger kids “oohed” and “ahhed” as I introduced them first to our trio of bears (using photos, of course!). And everyone giggled appropriately as I explained why we feed them carrots and how each of our bears demonstrates their individual traits by how they like to eat their carrots. Did you know Chinook likes to have her carrots handed to her pointed end first, Tatqiq likes it just the opposite, and Kalluk likes to have at least three at once! Aside from the laughs, these kids are very serious in wanting to help out, and all promised to police energy usage at home by reading more and playing fewer video games!
I will forever remember the students I spoke with at Columbia University. No surprise: they are incredibly bright and also inspirational. We spoke of the research projects we are pursuing at the San Diego Zoo that give us information to help protect wild polar bear habitat. I told them of the changes I have seen in the past years I‘ve spent watching polar bears in the Arctic and shared video and photos along with graphs from other colleagues and climate organizations that give the overwhelming evidence of the effect we have on the changing climate. These students are mixing an education in conservation, science, business, and policy making. Their questions and observations were filled with passion, deep thought, and, most of all, confident optimism that the answers are there for so many of the questions we have about the future of the Arctic and all Earth-balance issues. These young men and women will be the ones that do save our planet by finding intelligent, creative answers as to how we can continue to progress in our ways of life that no longer take too many resources and keep the natural balance of our planet.
JoAnne Simerson is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read about her trip to wild polar bear habitat in her post Polar Bears: Nine Years of Change.