The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat will celebrate International Polar Bear Day tomorrow (Wed., Feb. 27) by welcoming its two new tenants.  Taiga and Eddy from the Quebec Aquarium will spend a year in Cochrane, while their home exhibit is renovated. That will bring the polar bear population in Cochrane to five.

International Polar Bear Day is organized by Polar Bears International, the mission of which is to ensure that the big white mammals are well treated and can survive climate change.

Habitat executive director Michael Honeth says the global population is 26,000.  That’s down from about 40,000 in 1990..

“In some areas, there are some populations that are fairly stable and Canada is doing fairly well on that front,” Honeth explains, “but in many others, in the United States and Russia, the population as far as we know seems to be declining.”

Michael Honeth acknowledges that polar bears should be in the wild.  But the Habitat takes care of the orphaned bears that need human care.

“In particular, by having a very close to natural environment, we can study those bears almost as if they were in the wild,” he says, “ and we can get a lot of information about their behaviour and physiology that would be very difficult to get out there.”

If you’re feeling helpless, Honeth says there is something you can do to help, like driving your car less, and thereby using less fossil fuel – a major contributor to climate change.

While it seems small, he says that multiplying that by seven-billion – the human population of the planet – it would have a huge impact.

Honeth adds that politicians aren’t doing much. “So the best I can hope is that we can retard the impact of climate change to allow the bears more time to adapt.

QUICK FACTS

  • Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat acts as a rescue facility for polar bears that would not survive in the wild
  • The Habitat has mover 24 acres of space in which its bears can roam – the largest space in the world for polar bears in human care
  • About 60% of the estimated 26,000 wild polar bears are found in Canada

Source: Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat