If you live in Tacoma, polar bears are pretty much “out of sight, out of mind,” Wilson High School junior Zoe Stoy says.
But if you see, say, a 500-pound Mama Bear and her two cubs up close in the Hudson Bay area of Canada, you’ll probably fall in love and make it your mission to help save them, she knows.
Stoy, who attended Polar Bear International’s Polar Bear Leadership Camp in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, earlier this month says she’ll be telling other people about the threatened existence of polar bears – and asking friends and acquaintances to be more environmentally friendly.
She plans to figure out her “carbon footprint” – how much how she lives and what she does is detrimental to the environment. Then, she’ll look for ways to live a “greener” life.
Scientists believe global warming is shrinking the bears’ natural habitat in the world’s Arctic regions.
You can help, she says, by doing simple things like turning down thermostats, recycling, not using foam cups and other such products, and taking other conservation measures.
Scientists estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild, according to the Polar Bears International Web site
“Polar bears don’t really have a say” in what happens to their icy habitat, where they hunt seals and other creatures, Stoy said. “They can’t talk, and polar bears are kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of thing” … “If you saw them every day, then you’d know how bad their conditions are. … If you saw a limping dog every day, then you’d want to help it.”
Stoy was the only Washington student to attend the Polar Bear Camp. She represented Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
During her trip to Churchill, Stoy kept a blog to record her thoughts. You can find it at www.polarbearsinternational.org/student-journals/. Here are some excerpts:
OCT. 3, 9:17 P.M.
Oh my goodness … this has been such an unbelievable shell-shocking time! I got in at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday and everything kind of just ran from there. We had a lot of fun listening to and getting to know everyone that came from many different locations around the world. Through bouts of sleepiness we all got to meet past camp attendees among many others. Then we were off to bed because we had to be up and ready by 5 a.m. to catch our flight up to beautiful Churchill.
We got to Churchill and toured the town, which was fascinating. The people of Churchill have such a different mentality. They aren’t constantly on their cell phones and their form of normal transportation is driving around town at high speeds on quads. They are very friendly.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any polar bears tonight, but they assured us that before we know it we will be seeing them.
OCT. 4, 8:23 P.M.
This is the day we have all been waiting for … THE BEARS!! It was a life-changing experience. I was expecting to see one maybe two bears, but we were luckier than that – we saw THREE bears and what made it even better was that it was a mother bear and her two cubs.
We drove out on the cold tundra for a while and on the way we were lucky to see an Arctic hare. We then moved on and Eva (the ambassador from Denmark) having eyes like an eagle saw the bears in the distance! We all quickly raced to that side of the buggy and tried to take as many pictures as possible even though the bears were about a 1/2 mile out and could only be seen with binoculars. We then started to move forward and ended up following the bears for around 21/2 hours. We did get to move closer to her and her cubs. One of her cubs was especially rambunctious, always trailing behind and not sleeping when its mother and cub mate were.
OCT. 7, 5:53 P.M.
You know how I never cry at like anything? I was BAWLING on Sunday night. (Polar Bear International President) Robert Buchanan gave a speech and it was so powerful, so personal, so moving that right in the middle of it I started crying my eyes out. I was so upset with what people have done to the Earth, the environment, and somehow by accident, the polar bears. It was quite an emotional night. But later on that night we got to see one of the most beautiful northern lights shows it was just completely exhilarating.
So I told you how we saw a family of three? Well, we have seen them out in the tundra buggy every day since I have been here. Unfortunately we only got to see them from about two football fields away, it was still amazing. But the really amazing part was, last night they actually came into camp!
The little cubs came up to the tires and stood on all fours and looked RIGHT into my eyes! It was SOOO amazing. Imagine the feeling and the thrill you would get if you had an animal so rare so threatened so GREAT staring YOU right in the eye.
OCT. 8, 10:14 A.M.
Part of me feels bad that I was so naive about what was happening, but part of me is happy and hopeful. I’m looking forward to how I can change and make it all better. I feel as if I now have the power to do things that I couldn’t do before. Without this experience, these people, and this whole trip, I would not be who I really want to be. I feel as if I am a new person.
Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659