CINCINNATI – Michael Young, a 17 year old student from Anderson Township, in Cincinnati, will travel to the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, on October 10 for a week-long Teen Leadership Camp sponsored by Polar Bears International (PBI), a conservation group. The Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, part of PBI’s network of Arctic Ambassador Center Zoos, selected Young based on his involvement in its Scientists for the Future Program and his past accomplishments as an environmental leader. He 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.
Young, a junior at Seven hills High School, says he’s excited by the opportunity. “For my entire life I have loved bears, especially polar bears, and if I have the power to stop them from going extinct I want to be able to exercise this power with the utmost efficiency and greatest effect possible.”
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s CREW 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 Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden 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.”