If Not in the Wild, Would You See a Zoo Polar Bear?

Each autumn Frontiers North Adventures brokers numerous, safe interactions between humans and wild polar bears. As most of our guests hail from communities with zoos, my staff and I are often questioned about our position on polar bears in zoological settings. Recently, when expressing our support of a polar bear that was born at Toronto Zoo being transferred to Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo, this discussion spilled over to our Facebook page, generating interesting comments and discussion. As a result, we thought we'd take time now to provide context to our position.

Frontiers North's primary mission is to share with our guests the wildlife of the north as well as the customs, histories and cultures of the people of the north. One thing we've always been acutely aware of is that travel to and in Canada's north can be prohibitively expensive. At the same time, we are passionate about people experiencing this incredible part of the world and we've always tried to find ways to share the north with as many people as possible.

That's why more than a decade ago we created PolarBearCam.com, where annually we freely broadcast live wild polar bear video for passionate viewers all over the world. That project has evolved over time and now, with our partners at Polar Bears International and explore.org, each autumn we inspire millions of people worldwide with Churchill's polar bears, and we are really proud about that.

Our passion to have people become invested in polar bears is also why we are proud to work with partners in the zoological community who share similar values. We feel that by working with approved zoological institutions (designated so by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) that run world-class animal enrichment, nutrition, husbandry and visitor-education programs, real life polar bears can be shared as an inspirational resource with people coming from almost any social situation, and like our guests that travel with Frontiers North, zoo visitors are able to become invested in the welfare and future of polar bears as a species, casting a much wider net than we would be able to do on our own with guests that travel with us in Canada's north.

Over the last decade, we've received valuable coaching regarding polar bears in zoos from our friends at Polar Bears International. Through this relationship we've had the opportunity to sit-in on meetings and work side-by-side with PBI's Polar Bear Sustainability Alliance, a group of world-leading field biologists and zoo professionals that today discuss challenges that will likely affect polar bears in the future.

We respect that not everyone's beliefs and opinions on this topic will align with ours, and we hope that this will help encourage an open dialogue that gets people asking questions and learning about those zoos that are striving to help conserve polar bears. Coincidentally, I recently gave a TEDx talk about the importance of sharing ideas and fostering dialogue as an important part of the experience we provide our guests.

If we could, I'd like to host as many guests in Canada's north as wanted to come. I think your next best alternative to become inspired by wildlife is to visit a local, accredited zoological institution.

Polar bears in Churchill