Polar Bears International has long had a highly effective secret weapon: The zoos and aquariums in our Arctic Ambassador Center network amplify our outreach on climate change and how we can work together on solutions. They also work to set high standards for polar bears in zoos, regularly participating in zoo-based conservation science and continually striving to improve the overall well-being of the animals in their care.
In the spirit of fostering a healthy exchange of information and to support the important work zoos are doing, Polar Bears International recently arranged for a keeper from Mulhouse Zoological and Botanical Park in France to visit two zoos in the U.S. The goal was to learn about North American polar bear care standards, training techniques, and climate messaging to share back home.
Lead Keeper/Curator Marine Bacconais began her training at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, in early May and then traveled to the San Diego Zoo in California. Now that she’s back home, she hasn’t wasted any time in helping others benefit from her experiences. Marine has already given presentations about the exchange in several settings, sharing her new-found knowledge with others.
Marine’s recent trip to the U.S was just one part of PBl’s collaborative efforts to share information with European animal care and management teams. Marine is now in a position to contribute to the planning and facilitation of Polar Bears International’s first European Polar Bear Husbandry Training Workshop, which will be hosted by Yorkshire Wildlife Park in South Yorkshire, England in October. Marine will bring a unique perspective to the workshop, along with her leadership and language skills.
The European workshop will bring polar bear keepers and managers together to advance husbandry training in participating zoos and to collectively improve polar bear well-being and conservation research efforts. At PBI, we strive to bring partners together and encourage science with direct conservation applications. We also understand the value that cooperative training has in balancing animal welfare with meaningful science.
As a former keeper myself, I understand the importance of hands-on training sessions and time with peers. As a team member of an organization that conducts, supports, and shares scientific research that informs polar bear conservation, my colleagues and I appreciate the eagerness and generosity of all contributing partners. Thank you for recognizing the value of collaboration and coordination on behalf of polar bears--because together we are stronger!
Thanks to the many advisors representing institutions around the world who have worked on this project: San Diego Zoo, Como Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Vienna Zoo, Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Mulhouse Zoo, Stuttgart Zoo, Ouwehands Zoo, European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), Munich Zoo, Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Polar Bear SSP.
Below are snapshots of Marine’s experience. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into her world!
By Allison Jungheim, Senior Zookeeper / Training Coordinator, Como Zoo