Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International

Roger Williams Park Zoo's Chris Hitchener at Polar Bears International.
RWP Zoo's Chris Hitchener in Manitoba, with a wild polar bear in the background.

Polar Bears International



Learn more at the website of
Polar Bears International >

RWP Zoo: Arctic Ambassador Center

Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat though research and education. PBI provides scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to all interested parties. As part of PBI’s efforts, they have established a network of Arctic Ambassador Centers at more than 30 zoos and aquariums throughout North America and the world. Roger Williams Park Zoo has been an Arctic Ambassador Center since 2004.

Why do Zoos work with PBI?

Zoos play an important role in helping the scientists working in the wild with polar bears near Hudson Bay in Canada. The scientists ask zoos to test possible solutions for a growing number of problems they are seeing due to the melting of the ice caps. Instead of roaming out on ice packs to hunt for seals, polar bears now have to wait longer and longer for the ice to form. So, they are lingering near human communities, searching for food.  Zoo keepers and curators provide information, methods, and resources for residents to help them to live safely with polar bears until the ice packs form so the bears can resume their annual hunt.  Zoo keepers also help to develop protocols to respond to orphaned cubs and malnourished bears with veterinary care and supplemental feedings.  This is a great example of how captive polar bear programs can benefit the sustainability of wild populations.

In return, Zoo Curators and keepers network with PBI and other Arctic Ambassador centers to learn the latest husbandry science and enrichment methods for captive polar bears. Zoo education staff members often incorporate the latest information from PBI   to enhance education programs, family programs, special events. 

What has RWP Zoo been doing to help?

Roger Williams Park Zoo has been working with PBI since 2004 to educate people about the effects of global climate change on the world’s polar bear population. Here are some of our recent activities. 


The Zoo was proud to accept the honor of being named a Champion Arctic Ambassador Center by PBI for it's continued support of climate change intiatives. Anne Barilla, as part of her action plan for Zookeeper Leadership Camp, created and implemented a conservation based event with support from Chris Hitchener, titled Planting for the Planet. Along with Trees 2020, and the city of Providence forester, the event focused on climate change and community action in the city of Providence to improve air and life quality through the planting of trees in the city's many neighborhoods.

In August of 2012, Carrie Hawthorne was accepted into the Climate Reality Project’s Leadership Corps, as well as leading the Polar Bears International Teen Leadership Camp as the headmaster during the week of October 1st. The camp will keep a daily blog, which can be found here.


Chris Hitchener, the Zoo's Early Childhood Coordinator and Zoo Camp on the Move Director, is set to facilitate PBI's 2011 Teen Leadership Camp.
Read Chris's blog on his expectations and goals for the Camp >


Anne Barilla, the Zoo's lead zookeeper for our North America and Marco Polo Trail exhibits attended PBI's 2010 Zookeeper Leadership Camp. This week-long camp brings together a motivated group of keepers who help PBI reach a wide audience with their conservation message. Keepers carry a unique cachet with zoo guests. They will be able to inspire the public in their community to pitch in to reduce carbon emissions.


Chris Hitchener, the Zoo's Early Childhood Coordinator and Zoo Camp on the Move Director, co-facilitated the 2009 Zookeeper Leadership Camp for zoo professionals who are starting their own educational action plans.  The conference was designed to help participants develop action plans and focus on Polar Bear Science, Climate Science, Interpretation techniques, Education techniques, Leadership skills, and Community involvement.

Carrie Hawthorne, the Zoo’s Outreach manager, worked with PBI to host a live video conference between Providence MET School students and PBI scientists on the Arctic Tundra.  


Molly Alves, a Zoo Crew member, participated in PBI’s Teen Leadership Camp where she spent 10 days on the arctic tundra studying wild polar bears and developing an educational action plan to bring back to Rhode Island.  Since her return Molly has shared her experience with thousands of people through presentations and the media, connecting us all to what is happening in the Arctic and empowering us to make those necessary steps towards a healthier world.  
Read Molly's PBI blog >