Polar-bear rehabilitation, research and public education will be the focus of the first-of-its-kind, world-class International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, Premier Greg Selinger said today during a snow-turning ceremony to announce $1 million in provincial funding for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, the first part of a $31-million provincial commitment.
"This unique, innovative, state-of-the-art facility will combine a rehabilitation area for orphaned polar-bear cubs with a research, academic and public-education centre," said the premier. "We congratulate and thank the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and Polar Bears International for their dedication to this project."
The $31-million provincial commitment will include $4.5 million for the conservation centre and more than $26 million for construction of the polar-bear arctic exhibit.
The premier was joined today at the official snow-turning ceremony at the Assiniboine Park Zoo by Robert Buchanan, president and CEO of Polar Bears International, and Don Streuber, vice-chair of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.
"Today, polar bears are being threatened by the rapid melting of the ice cap and the time to act is now," said Streuber. "I congratulate the Province of Manitoba for taking the lead on this key initiative through the development of the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre which, working in partnership with Polar Bears International and the larger zoo community, will make a difference and bring about real change."
"The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre will help the public make a strong emotional connection with polar bears that will help motivate them to save this iconic species," said Buchanan. "If we save polar bears, we’ll also save frogs, birds, butterflies and, ultimately, people and the planet."
Assiniboine Park Conservancy will renovate the existing polar- and black-bear enclosures for an orphaned polar-bear cub rescue centre. The old enclosures will be improved to meet provincial standards by increasing size, enhancing security and creating enrichment experiences such as sand for bears to dig and a shade and climbing structure. There will also be an improved divide between humans and the bears for bears to rehabilitate in an environment that will improve their rehabilitation success. Renovations will begin this month and are scheduled be completed by the end of 2010.
The province works closely with the Town of Churchill to promote polar bear conservation through the co-operative Polar Bear Alert Program, which keeps people and bears safe, while allowing the natural seasonal movements of the bears along the coast of Hudson Bay, Selinger said. This program, which involves all of the people of Churchill, enables the highly valuable polar-bear tourism experience that has done so much for the town and province, and at the same time turned so many people from all over the globe into advocates for polar bears, he added.