Zoos are great for animal conservation. They’re great for raising awareness about important issues in nature, but if they want to really make an impact, they need to make it relatable.
On Tuesday, November 7th, one zoo did just the right thing to get people talking about polar bears:
Props to the Oregon Zoo for this. It definitely caught my eye!
Zoos will sometimes market their animals very heavily, let people “follow along” with their journey. That creates a comfortable sense of familiarity. For example, the Cincinnati Zoo’s Fiona The Hippo is basically a household name: they post regular updates about her, make merchandise, and more. There’s literally a Fiona plushie sitting on my bed right now.
While that obviously draws in money for the zoo, it also raises awareness for the species. If people fall in love with your animal, they’ll be interested in learning more about the species as a whole and what they can do to help conservation efforts. And if there’s a species that really needs some love, it’s polar bears.
Since about 1970, the polar bear population has been on a pretty steady decline due to the melting of ice caps as a result of global climate change. Though polar bears are occasionally hunted (mostly by the Indigenous populations, which have been hunting them for thousands of years), it’s not the main cause for concern. Ice loss is, and by 2050, experts say we’ll see a decline of about 30% in the overall population.
The Oregon Zoo posted this sweet birthday tribute for their polar bears during their Polar Bear Week, which happens this week every year in celebration of their birthdays. Polar Bear Week is all about teaching about the challenges of polar bear conservation.
Nora, one of the stars of the video, has actually lived in several zoos to take part in a breeding program. After all, there comes a point where the population must diversify in order to succeed – inbreeding would be detrimental. She’s home in the Oregon Zoo now, though, and shows no signs of leaving!