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studying wild polar bears

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Teen Arctic Ambassador: Day 4

The third bear spotted by the teens.

Rachel is the San Diego Zoo’s 2010 Teen Arctic Ambassador. She is sharing what she learns at Polar Bears International’s Teen Leadership Camp. Read her previous post, Teen Arctic Ambassador: Day 3.

I cannot even begin to describe the feelings running through me right now, but I’ll give it a shot! This morning, October 13, my fellow ambassadors and I got out on the tundra and headed for the Tundra Buggy Lodge, the place we are going to call home for the next few nights. On the way to the Lodge, we saw three different bears. The first bear was far away, but the fact that we were observing a polar bear in its natural habitat put many of us in a state of shock, wonder, and amazement.

Words cannot describe how I was feeling when we saw the next two bears. The second bear was very large and was resting about 50 feet (15 meters) from the buggy. Occasionally he would get up, sniff the air, and then lie back down. His “lazy” behavior was a way of adapting to his environment; in the warmer climate of the Hudson Bay, polar bears have to be very conscious of how much energy they are expending in order to survive the many months in which they don’t have a good meal.

Rachel in the Tundra Buggy with the 3rd bear in the background.

The third bear came as a surprise: as we were heading to the Lodge, the bear may have been spooked by the Buggy, ran in front of it, and then laid down next to a stream. It was a smaller, younger bear, and she couldn’t have been more than 20 feet (6 meters) from us. We observed this bear for a couple of hours; it was the closest encounter to a wild polar bear that most of us have had so far.

As I was watching this massive, majestic creature, I was overcome with emotions. I kept thinking, “I have to help this animal.” In that moment, I made a commitment to myself to do whatever it is I can do to be a voice for this species and help preserve it for many years to come. I felt immense respect for the species, and I simply observed the little things she did: the way she would wiggle her ears, how she would rest her giant head on her massive paws, and the way she would sit and watch the people around her marvel at her beauty.

I truly can say that I fell in love with this magnificent species, and I cannot wait to inspire others to feel the same way!

Read blog posts from the other teen ambassadors…

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Teen Arctic Ambassador: Day 1

Rachel, with one of our bears, before her trip.

Hello everybody,

Today, Sunday, October 10, I embarked on the trip of a lifetime. This morning, my facilitator, Kindra, and I headed north to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to study wild polar bears. As we arrived in Winnipeg after a long day of flights, I kept thinking “It’s finally here!” after many months waiting in anticipation. We were greeted by the other ambassadors and facilitators, and I couldn’t have been put with a nicer group.

Everyone is very kind and generous, and we all have the same drive to help the wonderful creatures we call the polar bears. Tomorrow we are heading out on the tundra buggy, and we are going to look for polar bears. I am already having a blast on this trip, and I can’t wait for tomorrow and the rest of the week with my new friends from around the world.

Rachel is the San Diego Zoo’s 2010 Teen Arctic Ambassador. She will be sharing what she learns at Polar Bears International’s Teen Leadership Camp. Read her previous post, Countdown to the Arctic. Read blog posts from the other teen ambassadors.