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Polar Bears International (PBI) will present its prestigious “Champion for Polar Bears” award to the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) on Saturday, May 7, recognizing the Society for its acclaimed climate awareness programs and polar bear initiatives at Brookfield Zoo. At the same time, American Airlines will receive the “Paw of Approval” award for its collaboration with CZS in advancing conservation efforts throughout the world and its sustainable business practices.

“The Chicago Zoological Society has earned this award for its extraordinary leadership in raising awareness of climate change and inspiring people to join the fight to save the planet—not only for polar bears, but for us all,” said Robert Buchanan, president and CEO of Polar Bears International.

The “Paw of Approval” award goes to American Airlines for adopting sustainable business practices, technologies, and procedures that take energy use, pollution prevention, water conservation, other emissions, and conservation of natural resources into account. In addition American Airlines is being recognized for its community service efforts by providing transportation assistance to support conservation outreach by Chicago Zoological Society staff, who have traveled to Argentina to help save dolphins, to London to improve knowledge of an endangered species of giraffe, and to Washington, D.C. for research to improve the health of cheetahs and to help lead a national climate literacy initiative, among other trips.

“The work we do would not be possible without the generous support of American Airlines,” said Stuart D. Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Society. “American’s generosity enables our staff, including scientists, to do research, provide medical support to animal populations, and share insights with other conservationists throughout the country and around the world.”

“We appreciate the work that the Society does to help make our world a better place in which to live,” said Tom Aichele, vice president – Central Division Passenger Sales. “The Chicago Zoological Society is a wonderful organization and the accomplishments that its staff members have made on the conservation and environmental fronts are outstanding. On behalf of the 10,000 Chicago-based employees of American Airlines and American Eagle, I thank you for this award and recognition.”

PBI recognized CZS for a host of climate-friendly initiatives, including:
  • Giving Brookfield Zoo guests an unprecedented eye-to-eye view of wildlife in Great Bear Wilderness, the most ambitious exhibit undertaking in the zoo’s history. The exhibit meets the rigorous and highest standards set forth by Manitoba for exhibiting and caring for polar bears. Here, people meet polar bears, grizzly bears, Mexican gray wolves, bald eagles, and bison and learn their stories—including the good news that conservation efforts can restore nature and save animals from extinction.
  • Spearheading the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network, a consortium of 15 zoos and aquariums across the country with the potential to reach more than 20 million visitors each year with the facts about climate change and the impact it has both on wildlife and on their own environment. The Network was launched last year with a planning grant from the National Science Foundation.

Buchanan said that sea ice losses in the Arctic from greenhouse gas emissions threaten polar bear survival. Polar bears rely on ice to hunt, breed, and in some cases to den. According to Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a senior scientist for Polar Bears International, however, it is not too late to save polar bears and their habitat by significantly reducing CO2.

“The research shows that time remains,” Buchanan said. “But it also shows that we must act quickly. The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, and other zoos and aquariums play an important role in connecting with the public and informing and inspiring community collaboration in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” American Airlines is also making an impact. For instance, from 2008 to 2009, it reduced its greenhouse gas emissions related to jet fuel by 7.1 percent.

The award ceremony at the zoo is part of PBI’s Be Cool program to raise awareness about the need to retain Arctic sea ice and to motivate and inspire community involvement in reducing CO2.

Brookfield Zoo is part of PBI’s network of Arctic Ambassador Centers. These centers focus on animal well-being and enrichment, take a leadership role in stewardship and carbon reduction efforts in their communities, and participate in PBI polar bear research efforts. Many also help support polar bear conservation through the PBI Polar Bear Sustainability Alliance.