Archive for December 2010
For all of us who love polar bears and who have been actively involved in conservation efforts, 2010 would appear to have been a continuation of the trends of recent years: Climate change-driven sea ice losses were dramatic and reached record lows, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continued to mount, and polar bear populations continued to be impacted by these factors and other, more localized, unusual weather patterns. All told, the mantra of polar bear conservation didn’t change in 2010: We must continue to reduce our energy use and resulting CO2 emissions, or the polar bear will be lost. While many of us have worked hard at reducing our carbon footprint, this sobering reality tells us that we all have to do more, and we all have to share our passion for polar bears and their conservation with others.
If you visit Wegeforth Bowl at the San Diego Zoo to see the animal show, you may be treated to watching a sea lion swim, a lynx pounce, or a serval cat leap. These amazing behaviors performed on cue are the result of the many hours of training put in by our dedicated animal behavior staff. Training is key to the success of our animal shows and presentations. Training is also instrumental in animal care and management. On a stroll through the Zoo, you might notice a keeper asking a lion to rub her side against a fence or asking an ape to present his hand or chest. Training is going on everywhere at the Zoo, with animals from great apes to meerkats. Not only can it make life on exhibit much easier for both the animal and its keeper, it is also enriching. Working with a baby animal allows us the unique opportunity to start training at an early and impressionable age. The behaviors young Boris, our newest reindeer, learns to display in his Zoo environment now will help us manage him as an adult reindeer. (See previous post, Boris Learns Reindeer Games.)
I’ve just returned from my annual trip to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, to work with Polar Bears International. This was my 10th year of doing so, and, as many of you know, I have seen dramatic changes in the environment and animals that live there in just this decade. This year has provided the shortest ice season in recorded time: the polar bears lost a full nine weeks of hunting time. The water and air temperatures for November and December continue to be above normal, delaying the formation of ice again this year. The polar bears have been hunting during low tide and have been fortunate to occasionally find harbor seals resting among the rocks. The bears must be vigilant that they return to the shore before the tide rushes in.