Como Zoo Teen Volunteer Travels to See Wild Polar Bears

Kathryn Ravey, a 16-year-old student from Eden Prairie, Minnesota and volunteer at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in Saint Paul, will travel to the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, in early October for a week-long Teen Leadership Camp sponsored by Polar Bears International (PBI), a conservation group. Como Zoo, which is part of PBI’s network of Arctic Ambassador Center Zoos, selected Ravey based on her past accomplishments as an environmental leader. She will join 17 other top students from the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

“The teens who take part in our Leadership Camp are extraordinary individuals,” said Robert Buchanan, PBI president. “They spend a week on the tundra during the fall polar bear migration on the shores of Hudson Bay. They stay at the Tundra BuggyÒ Lodge—with polar bears just outside– to learn about polar bears, climate change, and how each of us can help. From this remote location, they stay connected to the rest of the world through their blog at polarbearsinternational.org.  Before returning home, each Ambassador creates an individual action plan to help reduce CO2 in their community.”

Churchill’s polar bears, part of the Western Hudson Bay population, draw visitors from around the world during their fall migration. Every summer, these bears are driven ashore when the ice on the bay melts, taking away their seal-hunting grounds. They spend the next few months resting and fasting. As cold weather returns, they begin to gather on the shore near Churchill to wait for the ice to form.

Having the chance to see polar bears in their natural habitat –and to learn first-hand about arctic climate-warming—is a transformative experience for Leadership Camp students. The goal of the camp, which is now in its seventh year, is to inspire, inform, and empower young leaders to advocate for environmental stewardship in their home communities.

Ravey, a junior at Eden Prairie High School says she’s excited by the opportunity. “I consider myself very lucky to take part in such an exciting and important experience and I hope, when I return, that I can make a difference in my community and in the environment.”

Como Zoo was invited to send a representative to the camp because of its role as a PBI Arctic Ambassador Center Zoo. These centers focus on animal well-being and enrichment, take a leadership role in stewardship and carbon reduction efforts in their communities, and participate in PBI polar bear research efforts. Many also help support polar bear conservation through the PBI Polar Bear Sustainability Alliance.

“Outreach by institutions such as the Como Zoo can make an enormous difference in motivating the public,” Buchanan said. “If we are serious about conserving polar bears and their ecosystem we need to act quickly—and our Arctic Ambassador Center Zoos and Teen Leadership Camps play an important role in inspiring change.”

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