9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. weekdays; 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekends. Call 816.513.5800 for more information.
Zoological District Resident (Jackson/Clay County MO) pricing is only $5 Adults, $4.50 Seniors, $4.00 children 3-11. Regular Pricing $11.50 Adults; $10.50 Seniors; $8.50 Children ages 3-11. 2 and under are free.
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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Have you been through an experience that was beyond your wildest dream, but left you feeling hollow?I did.I was one of the luckiest people in the world when the Kansas City Zoo CEO/Executive Director, Randy Wisthoff, invited me to join his group on the trip to Churchill Manitoba in November 2010.
Churchill is a town on the shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. It is most famous for the many polar bears that move toward the shore from inland in the autumn, leading to the nickname "Polar Bear Capital of the World" that has helped its growing tourism industry.
Being the Director of Education at the Kansas City Zoo I have an obligation and the desire to teach about Polar Bears and their environment. In order to this, Randy rationalized; I need to see it, first hand.Of course, I welcomed the opportunity, but was not prepared for the stark reality of the situation and the dismal prognosis for the bears.
Tourists can safely view polar bears from specially modified buses known as tundra buggies. Use of the buggies helps sustain local tourism, but can also cause damage to the local ecosystem when driven outside the established trails. October and early November are the most feasible times to see polar bears, hundreds of which wait on the vast peninsula until the water freezes on Hudson Bay so that they can return to hunt their primary food source, ringed seals.
Polar bears were once thought to be solitary animals that would avoid contact with other bears except for mating. In the Churchill region, however, many alliances between bears are made in the fall. These friendships last only until the ice forms, and then it is every bear for themselves to hunt and survive.
I teach about global warming, the shrinking of sea ice and limited food sources, but I have never lectured with vivid picture of the reality of the situation until now.Hudson Bay should be frozen nine months of the year. But it is not.The ground of Churchill Point is called permafrost and should be frozen year round, but it is not.Vehicles should not sink into an icy sludge, but they do. Bears should not hunker down chewing on kelp along the shores or wander for months along the coast, but they do. There should be little sunshine, little rain and temperatures should be cold.But we experienced bright sunny days, evidence of large rainstorms, and jacket weather.The only consistent and expected prediction was wind.
The bears were magnificent; the people were gracious and hospitable. The accommodations were wild. But the experience was alarming because the Hudson Bay and Churchill no longer provide the essential climate for polar bears and their cubs.Dr. Andrew Derocher, a polar bear researcher and Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta,told me that 1990 has been noted as the year of the least amount of sea ice on record. He and his team have found no living cubs from that year.When we left Churchill, the ice had not formed.In early December, the ice formed, 45 days later than usual. Dr. Derocher predicts that few cubs born in 2010 will survive.
We are lucky to have Nikita at our Zoo. He entertains us and tells a fabulous story.Nikita has helped us forge our partnership with Polar Bear International (PBI). PBI reports that 2010 has given us hope. Successes include establishing the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, the first-ever rescue center for orphaned cubs and compromised adult bears. And,inspired teams of teens across North America that have taken actions to reduce CO2 by nearly 100 million pounds and motivated families, schools, and businesses to make simple lifestyle changes to cut carbon emissions.
My hope is now to inspire you to become involved with and participate in Polar Bear Education and Conservation.Many opportunities are available through the Zoo’s Education Department. The new Arctic Ambassadors welcome the opportunity to speak with your group. All you have to do is ask. Nikita and the Polar Bears of the Arctic need you.