Introducing San Diego Zoo’s Arctic Ambassadors
Polar Bear International’s Leadership Camps are designed to inform, inspire, and empower future leaders who will return to their communities to motivate others to reduce their carbon footprints and help save Arctic ice for polar bears.
Participants spend a week in “tundra buggies,” near Churchill, Canada, to observe polar bears in the wild, learn facts about climate change, and discover what they can do in their own communities to help save polar bear habitat. Campers also developed communication, presentation, and creative planning skills in order to become “Arctic Ambassadors.”
For the past seven years, the San Diego Zoo has sponsored a young adult to attend the PBI’s Teen Leadership Camp. This year we sent Rachel Juhnke, a junior at Patrick Henry High School and a Zoo Corps member for the last 3 years. Zoo educator, Kindra Maples, escorted Rachel to camp and was an instructor to the other 17 teens from the United States, Canada, and Australia who also attended camp. Kindra helped delivered PBI’s message, “Together we can save polar bears and the Arctic, but we must act soon.”
In addition to the teen camp, the San Diego Zoo also sent polar bear keeper, Hali O’Connor, to attend PBI’s Zoo Keeper Camp, where she had the opportunity to network with her peers and meet renowned field scientists, educators, and community members. Hali, Rachel, and Kindra had the opportunity to set foot on the tundra and see firsthand the current state of the Arctic.
They have now returned to San Diego highly motivated to impact their community by inspiring others to make a difference. They will be taking the message on the road by: encouraging students to “think globally, act locally;” sharing information at environmental fairs; and teaching Zoo guests what they can do at home, work, and school to reduce their carbon footprint. Perhaps together we can be the “tipping point” in saving polar bears and other species, too.