As the United States Fish & Wildlife Service considers the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species, members of the Polar Bears International advisory council meet in San Diego on Friday to discuss the future of this bear and the role of zoos as educators and conservation partners. The San Diego Zoo and Polar Bears International announced Thursday they are forming an alliance to establish a conservation program, "Arctic Ambassadors," that will involve zoos and researchers around the world. "As climate change impacts the extent of arctic ice, more research and education are needed to protect polar bear populations," said Ron Swaisgood, Ph.D., head of Applied Animal Ecology at the San Diego Zoo. "By partnering with Polar Bears International, the San Diego Zoo has a unique opportunity to assist in polar bear conservation by focusing research on those questions that are best addressed in zoos and will have useful application both here and in the wild. The polar bear has much to gain from this alliance." Polar Bears International has already funded three San Diego Zoo polar bear research projects. One ongoing program is studying the bear's hearing sensitivity to help determine the impact of human-generated noise, such as oil drilling, on this species. "Under the guidance of this program, zoos throughout the world will help educate and inspire millions of people by establishing Arctic Ambassador Centers," said Robert Buchanan, Polar Bears International president. "PBI and the San Diego Zoo will work together to build an extensive network of Arctic Ambassadors to become champions for this sentinel species by inspiring, informing, and empowering change." Arctic Ambassadors will include some of the world's top leaders in polar bear education, research, and husbandry issues. The San Diego Zoo will become an active participant in Polar Bears International's field research initiatives, including the Polar Population Project (Tri-P), which is designed to establish census counts, track the movement of the bears and determine the location of geographic pockets where the species might be able to survive the current period of climate change. -more- POLAR BEAR ALLIANCE/2-2-2 Together, the Zoo and PBI will continue conservation projects researching poorly-understood aspects of polar bear reproduction, sensory ecology, mother-cub behavior and cub development as well as how these systems are impacted by humans and a changing environment. The alliance will provide worldwide leadership in polar bear husbandry areas such as behavior, nutrition and veterinary care. Education will also be a key component of Arctic Ambassadors. Not only will this program generate scientific information to support conservation, it will become a vanguard messenger for the polar bear conservation crisis and the threats facing the arctic and the globe due to climate change. During the 2008 Year of the Polar Bear, Arctic Ambassadors will include Polar Bears International's Leadership Camp in Churchill, arctic distant learning initiatives, a world lecture series, interactive education, a National Teen Contest, a teaching curriculum, polar bear tours with scientists, an online game, an interpretive center and a Web-based education center. The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is operated by the not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego. The Zoological Society, dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats, engages in conservation and research work around the globe and is responsible for maintaining accredited horticultural, animal, library, and photo collections. The Zoological Society also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park (more than half of which has been set aside as protected native species habitat) and the center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES). The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by the Foundation for the Zoological Society of San Diego. Polar Bears International is a non-profit organization devoted to worldwide conservation through education. World headquarters are in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, at 550-5 Donald Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3L-2T4, Canada. U.S. headquarters are in Sebastopol, California. Membership begins with a donation of $25 and includes a quarterly newsletter. One hundred percent of donations go to support PBI initiatives. All administrative costs are covered by sales from its on-line gift shop. Board and advisory council members receive no compensation and are not reimbursed for expenses. For more information, see www.polarbearsinternational.org.
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