DE
24.02.15

International Polar Bear Day at Hellabrunn Zoo

On Friday, 27 February, the Species Conservation Center at Hellabrunn Zoo will once again mark International Polar Bear Day with a special exhibition in which visitors can learn about the endangered species and how they are affected by climate change.

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Polar bears in the wild are facing a serious challenge: the icy habitat of the world's largest land-based predator is melting away, literally. Hellabrunn Zoo will dedicate International Polar Bear Day to raising awareness of the continuing threat to the fellow species of our Munich polar bears Giovanna, Yoghi, Nela and Nobby. International Polar Bear Day was launched in 2004 by the organisation Polar Bears International and is marked each year on 27 February to draw worldwide attention to climate change and the threat it imposes on polar bears in the Arctic.

On 27 February, Hellabrunn Zoo will host a polar bear workshop in the Seminar Room of the Species Conservation Center between 10am - 4pm. Volunteers will be on hand to inform visitors about global warming and how each of us can play a part in saving the polar bear. The workshop will also include a photography exhibition by the acclaimed wildlife photographer Norbert Rosing, who offers a fascinating insight into the world of the great white bear. There will also be a film area where visitors can watch an exciting film about the twin cubs Nela and Nobby in the maternity den during their first months.

At 7pm, Norbert Rosing will screen his inspiring multimedia show "The World of the Polar Bear". (Free entry, book in advance at artenschutz@hellabrunn.de).

Zoo director Rasem Baban attaches great importance to Hellabrunn Zoo's participation in International Polar Bear Day: "We think it is a real opportunity to make our visitors more aware of the consequences of their actions in relation to climate change. Many people come to Hellabrunn to watch the little polar bears Nela and Nobby at play, but our focus as an educational institution lies mainly in making the public aware of the fate of their counterparts in the wild and providing suggestions on how each of us can help protect the natural habitat of the polar bear."

For the second consecutive year, International Polar Bear Day will focus on the motto "adjust your thermostat". Visitors will be invited to take the Thermostat Challenge by adjusting their thermostat 2°C down or up (depending on whether it's winter or summer) to reduce CO2 emissions. About one-fifth of the energy demand in Germany is consumed for heating and hot water. Heating costs are therefore a pivotal factor for saving energy and reducing CO2 consumption.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the current population of polar bears in the wild is about 20,000. The IUCN classifies the polar bear as "threatened". Scientists expect that the population will dramatically decline within the next few decades.

Global warming, which is most evident in the Arctic, is considered the greatest threat to the polar bear: within the last 100 years the air temperature in the region has increased by 5°C. The sea ice extent has decreased by six per cent since 1985 and the ice mass by almost 40 per cent. The sea ice melts earlier in the spring and returns later in the autumn. This has dramatic consequences for the polar bears, particularly as they hunt their main food source, ringed seal, on the pack ice. The bears are forced to stay longer on land, where they often go hungry. Female polar bears are finding it increasing difficult to find enough to eat to build up sufficient fat reserves and therefore give birth to fewer cubs. Those that give birth do not always manage to feed their young.

Since 2014, Hellabrunn Zoo has lent its support to Polar Bears International. The wildlife conservation organisation collects important scientific data on the distribution, habitat use, population size and reproductive rate of polar bears in the Canadian Hudson Bay as part of the Bear Tracker program. The polar bears (females only) are fitted with satellite collars, which transmit GPS data, providing information on the level of threat to the polar bears, and help to develop appropriate protective measures. Hellabrunn Zoo sponsors one such satellite collar.

Last year, as part of the EAZA Pole to Pole Campaign, our volunteer wildlife conservation ambassador stationed at our information booth informed visitors about the many species living in the polar regions and climate change. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) launches a new wildlife conversation campaign every two years. For its current campaign Pole to Pole, EAZA has teamed up with IUCN to raise awareness of the dramatic and visible effects of climate change in the polar regions. The polar bear was chosen for the logo of this campaign as it represents the plight of animals in the Arctic. The king penguin was selected to represent the plight of animals in the Antarctic, and can also be seen in Hellabrunn's Polar World.

Hellabrunn will continue to support the EAZA Pole to Pole campaign in 2015. During the Easter holidays, the zoo will once again offer "Polar World mobile info point" several days per week, informing zoo visitors about polar bears, penguins and other polar animals.