Polar bear transition center moves ahead

AlaskaZoo forges ahead with plan to help rescue polar bears

The Alaska Zoo inAnchorage is nearly ready to break ground on a unique "transition center"designed to care for and study polar bears including orphaned cubs rescuedfrom the North Slope.

The new polar bear center eventuallywill include a 1200-square-foot building a 1200-square-footholding/maternity den facility and three natural-substrate yard areas which togetherwill provide space for up to six cubs a family group or three adult bears inthree dens.

The first phase of the Polar Bear Project – the transitioncenter itself – was funded by a $50000 grant from the National Fish andWildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions; matchingcontributions from local sources brought the total conservation investment to$100000.

A zoo official said in midSeptember that initial site work had been completed contractors hiredmaterials ordered and an adjacent moose enclosure shifted to make room for theexpanded polar bear area.

"Everything is in place so we can break ground" said Eileen Floyd of the Alaska Zoo. "We're justwaiting on the permits."

Designated as an Arctic AmbassadorCenter by the Polar Bears International (PBI) group the zoo supports PBIresearch projects to help conserve the remaining population of the iconic whitebears estimated at 20000 to 250 along with their declining sea icehabitat.

The zoo which also provides apermanent home to two resident adult bears is "the only entity that ispermitted to go rescue polar bears" Floyd said.

Zoo personnel also conductreproductive nutritional behavioral and physiological research on the bears.In one recent study animal curator Shannon Jensen investigated the best waysto remove oil from polar bear fur.

With the added capacity from the newtransition center along with a larger sample size of bears to work withresearchers could find even more opportunities to learn about the animals. 

"It gives us so many more options" Jensen said.


About NFWF

Established by Congress in 1984 the National Fish and WildlifeFoundation (NFWF) sustains restores and enhances the nation's fish wildlifeplants and habitats. Working with federal corporate and individual partnersNFWF has funded more than 4000 organizations and committed more than $2.3billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

About the Alaska Zoo

The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage has provided or found homes for the orphanedinjured and abandoned wildlife of Alaska for more than four decades. Thenonprofit organization is dedicated to promoting conservation of Arcticsub-Arctic and like climate species through education research and communityenrichment. Learn more at www.alaskazoo.org.

About Environmental Solutions for Communities

In2012 Wells Fargo and NFWF launched the Environmental Solutions forCommunities program designed to support projects that link economicdevelopment and community well-being to the stewardship and health of theenvironment.  This five-year initiative is supported through a $15 millioncontribution from Wells Fargo that will be used to leverage other public andprivate investments with an expected total impact of over $37.5 million.

Credit: USFWS