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Located in Swope Park at 6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, Missouri. Just off I-435 and US-71 highway, the Zoo is easily accessible from any part of the metropolitan area. 816.513.5800
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Kansas City Zoo Keeper Travels to See Wild Polar Bears as Part of Polar Bears International's 2010 Leadership Camp
Andrea O’Daniels, Animal Supervisor at the Kansas City Zoo is in the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, a week-long Zoo Keeper Leadership Camp sponsored by Polar Bears International (PBI), a conservation group and the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). She joins 15 other keepers from the U.S. and Canada.
Here is a bit of her experience directly from the Arctic, photo above was also taken on this day:
“Today was the first day on the Tundra Buggy, and it is a surreal experience. We started the day by loading on the tundra buggy and low and behold a polar bear comes around the corner. It was a sub-adult male (we think) and he was magnificent! He came right up to the buggy, and we were able to get some great pictures. It is amazing that they have no fear and are curious about everything, just like our bear in the Zoo.
We then continued our trip and came across a mother with two cubs! Unbelievable! We sat and watched them for hours. Being able to see polar bears in the wild is a once in a lifetime experience. If we do not reduce our carbon footprint it might not be an opportunity the everyone will have -- polar bears will be gone. Nothing is more inspiring to reducing our carbon footprint than being able to see polar bears in the wild.”
"Our last day on the Tundra Buggy. While it is sad it did not disappoint. We saw a big male walking down the coast line. He was not quite as curious as the bears from previous days. He quickly moved away. We had some great skype sessions with the president of PBI and a famous polar bear scientist. To see and hear there passion makes me more passionate. Being in this camp has given me the skills to be able to reach out to variety of individuals and share my information on polar bears -- I am extremely excited to share my experiences. No words will be able to express what this opportunity has meant to me, and I will not let it be wasted. While it is sad to leave Churchill and the polar bears I am excited to come back to Kansas City and make a difference."
"As we leave the Tundra Buggy Lodge for the last time, we don't get very far, before we saw a bear. It was almost like he was there to remind us that even though we were leaving, we have our assignments. I will speak for all of us when I say that none of us have been more inspired or more motivated than we have for this week out on the tundra. To see all the wildlife in their natural setting was amazing, but it was more than that. All of the people from PBI: Krista, B.J., Katherine, Marcie, Eric and everyone else that joined us, Dave from Frontiers North, and Bill from Manitoba Conservation were truely inspirations. they are all so passionate and shared that passion with us. I will never forget this experience and I am so grateful that they chose me to go on this journey. I will not let them or the polar bears down. I will inspire change, I will reach people, I will reduce CO2 emissions. There is no other option for me -- not after seeing and experiencing what I have in this past week."
“The zoo keepers who take part in our Leadership Camp are extraordinary individuals,” said Robert Buchanan, PBI president. “They spend a week on the tundra during the fall polar bear migration on the shores of Hudson Bay. They stay at the Tundra Buggy® Lodge—with polar bears just outside— to learn about polar bears, climate change, and how each of us can help. From this remote location, they stay connected to the rest of the
world through their blog at polarbearsinternational.org. Before returning home, each Ambassador creates an individual action plan to help reduce CO2 in their community.”
Churchill’s polar bears, part of the Western Hudson Bay population, draw visitors from around the world during their fall migration. Every summer, these bears are driven ashore when the ice on the bay melts, taking away their seal-hunting grounds. They spend the
next few months resting and fasting. As cold weather returns, they begin to gather on the shore near Churchill to wait for the ice to form.
Having the chance to see polar bears in their natural habitat –and to learn first-hand about
arctic climate-warming—is a transformative experience for camp participants. The goal of the camp, now in its second year, is to inspire, inform, and empower zoo professionals to advocate for environmental stewardship in their home communities.
Polar Bear International Camp -- 2009
Kansas City Zoo Keeper, Rebecca Prewitt, recently participated in the Zoo Keeper Leadership Camp hosted by Polar Bears International (PBI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the Polar Bear and its habitat.
Rebecca spent a week learning first-hand about Polar Bears and climate change at PBI Leadership Camp. She traveled to the tundra near the famous Polar Bear capital of the world near Churchill, Manitoba.
Below is a first hand account of her experiences from her journal, and a sample of the photos she took during her journey.
October 4, 2009 Left Kansas City at 8:35 A.M. and arrived safely in Winnipeg, MB at about 1 P.M. The connecting flight in Minneapolis was nice because about half of the people on the trip connected there so we all had support when arriving in Winnipeg.
Day one was pretty basic. We arrived, had a meet and greet, and had dinner. After a day of expectations and meeting some really great people we headed to bed early in preparation for our 5:45 A.M. meeting time for our flight in the morning.
October 5, 2009 Today has been amazing!!!! We had our 2 and half hour flight from Winnipeg to Churchill this morning. It was a small plane (maybe 30 seats), and all of our flights were graciously donated by the folks of Calm Air. (THANK YOU CALM AIR!!)
Upon arrival, our guide from Frontiers North Tundra Buggy Adventures, John Gunter, greeted us and he proceeded to show us around Churchill on one of his buses. We saw the port, and the town (population of around 600-900), and then broke for lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Gypsy's. It was wonderful food and people.
We also saw the parks department, and saw where the town now has its recycling center that used to be a dump. Churchill has now started to recycle all products here in town to cut down on the garbage, which keeps the town safer because Polar Bears were attracted to the garbage.
Along these same lines, we were able to speak with the conservation department on their efforts of keeping bears out of town, and their holding facility call D20. For more information on D20 please check out my group's blogs on the PBI Website.
After being in town for most of the day we made the 1.5-hour trek to the tundra buggy lodge where we will be staying for the next 3 days. It is wonderful. The tundra is spectacular and the beauty is breathtaking!!
The tundra is much different than you might imagine. Because we're here ahead of "winter" it's not the frozen, snow-packed plateau you might picture. Right now, it more closely resembles a grassy shoreline strewn with large, flat rocks that can collect puddles.
October 6, 2009 This morning started with a spotting of 3 Arctic Foxes at 5:45 A.M. They were very hard to see but were visible ... not photographable though.
Woke up for breakfast at 7:30, it was delicious we had bacon and eggs and French toast. We did some small teleconferences over polycom and skype with Julian who is a technical advisor and David Barber who is an expert on sea ice.
After, we went out on the tundra buggy to see our first Polar Bear. She was noticed about 400 yards out front of the buggy. Upon approaching her she was very calm and just allowed us to approach.
I will let the photos speak for themselves, but today was by far one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
The most poignant part of today had to come from when Robert Buchanan (PBI President) asked us all to stand in front of the window and look at her. He then asked us to close our eyes and imagine that we would be the last generation to see Polar Bears. This could happen.
We could be the last generation to see Polar Bears.
We have a tall order to fill when we get home, but I can tell you that after seeing this magnificent animal in the wild and having the opportunity to look her in the eye ... I am ready to do anything I can to help them. The information in the Polar Bear Status Report is staggering.
In addition to seeing her ... quite literally all day, (she came by the lodge after we left her on the tundra) we were able to see arctic foxes again twice. They were beautiful and so agile and quick in their movements.
Needless to say, today has been unreal and surreal on so many levels. Thanks to John Gunter and his family at Frontiers North Tundra Buggy Adventures ... without them no one would be on this trip. THANKS!!!!!!
October 7, 2009 Today has been awesome. We began the day speaking about forward action plans and climate science. We had a skype conference with Greg Thiemann from York University. He is expert on diet analysis in Polar Bears and gave us a wonderful presentation on the research he is doing.
Close to lunchtime we headed out on the Buggy and saw 2 Polar Bears pretty quickly. It was absolutely amazing … the one bear had laid down near the buggy and we watched the second slowly walk about a mile towards us. When the large male bear came with in 10 to 12 feet of the buggy and the other bear. We were blessed with an amazing interaction of 2 bears … the male bear came close and the female high tailed it out of there.
Upon returning to the lodge we were able to see another Polar Bear lying off in the distance. Amazing … 3 bears!!!! This bear was laying off to the right of the road in a patch of willow ... it was beautiful. AND THEN … We got back the lodge and yet another bear outside the lodge ... We were also able to see tundra swans, arctic hares, ravens, Ptarmigans, terns, and possibly some gulls. It was a day FILLED with animals.
We were also able to walk on the tundra ... AMAZING, and we each got to “test drive” the Buggy ... that was crazy. It was smooth but huge and intimidating.
Lots of learning, lots of fun, and lots to do when we get home!!!!!
October 8, 2009 Today has been a little different ... It has been rainy outside and the wind has picked up. Due to the weather we have stayed at the lodge all day, but it has been worth it.
We have had the same bear from yesterday hang out next to the lodge all day. He came right up to lodge earlier today and it right now just resting about 10-15 yards away.
We did see a domestic dog today that was running around. He saw the Polar Bear and high tailed it across the tundra ... it was a little scary because we didn't know what was going to transpire.
We also saw a peregrine falcon sitting out on a rock this morning. It was stunning. We had a polycom conference with Kyle Ferguson from Toronto who gave us some fantastic ideas about reaching out to the public about our cause. See the educational materials on the PBI Website.
We have been working all day on our forward action plans for our return and will soon be prepping for a Q and A with a 4th grade class. Very fun ... got to run :)
October 10, 2009
Sitting here in the Winnipeg airport I have been reflecting on the amazing trip I just experienced. I am sad to leave. Yesterday was pretty hard. Our group had become so close over the last 5 days it was hard to say goodbye to the people that had taught me so much and influenced me.
It was amazing to be able to spend some time in Churchill before we flew out to Winnipeg. We checked out the Eskimo Museum, got our passport stamped at the post office (it has a Polar Bear on it :)), and went to the local grocery.
After going to the grocery, I met up with the tech guy for PBI, BJ Kirschhoffer, to go do my video clip. We went down to the beach on the bay where the waves were coming in pretty big for the area. It was a beautiful setting to shoot my sound bite. (Thank you for taking time out of your day to help me BJ.)
Then I got to visit most of the gift shops in town and meet once again with everyone at Gypsy’s for lunch. (Thanks again to Fred and your family for being so hospitable to us!!!!). Then it was off the airport.
This past week has been quite possibly the most influential week of my life.
Seeing these magnificent bears in their natural habitat is unexplainable … it is moving, it is spiritual, it is life changing. You truly don’t appreciate them until you see them calmly lay down for a nap, or play with a stick while they wait for the ice to form, or when two come so close together to react to one other and you are able to see them run faster than you could ever imagine them running.
The need for change is eminent. If we don’t do something soon we could lose the Polar Bears.
We have five years to make a difference and lower our CO2 emissions. If we don’t, within 50 years we could see a dramatic decrease of Polar Bears. It is up to us to change to save the Polar Bears and slow climate change.
The easiest stuff for you to do at home is recycle, BUY recycled products, plants trees or a garden to increase the green, carpool or don’t let you car idle, and the most important thing of all is to spread the word!!!!!