Polar bear team welcomes equipment and Duke divers
CINCINNATI (September 26, 2018) – Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden relies on its team of certified divers, both volunteer and employees, to keep the pools for manatees, polar bears, penguins and hippos clean. Duke Energy just made that job easier by donating $25,000 worth of commercial-grade dive equipment to the Zoo’s dive program.
“This is exactly the equipment we needed to improve the safety and efficiency of the Polar Bear dives,” said Jen Meeks, Cincinnati Zoo’s Dive Safety Officer. “They gave us two Kirby Morgan dive helmets, 300 feet of umbilical line (air and communication for the diver), air control system with diver communication and harnesses! This equipment will allow our polar bear divers to go in without wearing heavy cylinders and have an unlimited air supply.”
Duke Energy recently transitioned to using contracted commercial divers to perform dive work, such as clearing intake grates in the Ohio River, due to the limited nature of the work. “We recognized a great option for our dive equipment was to donate it to the Cincinnati Zoo, which Duke Energy already partners with on a variety of projects, so it was a natural fit,” said Chad Fritsch, director of Midwest Gas Operations, Duke Energy.
“The Duke Energy divers were yearning for a place to use their skills and equipment,” said Meeks. “When they contacted me to see if the zoo had any dive operations that could use their help, I said we sure do!”
Divers play an important role in the zoo’s conservation efforts. Divers can scrub algae, vacuum detritus and perform repairs without the need to drain the pools. This saves not only water, but also the energy required to chill the water to the polar bears’ comfort.
Cleaning a polar bear pool has its challenges. Divers must wear drysuits and full-face masks to protect themselves from the hazards associated with carnivore fecal matter. Add a SCUBA cylinder and some weights, and each diver wears 100 pounds of equipment. Divers must also work within time constraints and the limitations of full-face masks not intended to support the breathing demands of heavy labor. Not surprisingly, only five of the zoo’s 90 volunteer divers are part of the polar bear dive team.
Thanks to the generous donation of Duke Energy, the polar bear dive team is set to become bigger and better.
“This equipment will greatly improve the safety and efficiency of polar bear dive operations,” said Meeks. “Welcoming the talented and motivated Duke Energy volunteer divers to our team is a huge bonus.”
The zoo’s dedicated volunteer divers perform maintenance dives in the manatee, polar bear, hippo and penguin pools every day of the week, year round. To qualify, volunteers must be active Open Water divers, First Aid and CPR certified, and pass a diver skills assessment and physical. For more information on how to become a volunteer diver, check out http://cincinnatizoo.org/support/volunteer/.