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Tickets to the 2010 Conservation Dinner can be ordered
by calling 708-688-8390.

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is pleased to announce Polar Bears International (PBI) and its President and CEO Robert Buchanan as the 2010 recipients of its George B. Rabb Conservation Medal. He will be honored at the CZS Annual Conservation Dinner that will be held on March 2, 2010, at The Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. During the event, which is presented by the Women’s Board of the Chicago Zoological Society and sponsored by Freeborn & Peters, Buchanan and PBI will be recognized for their role in helping people understand the importance of polar bears and their habitat and empowering individuals to have a sense of immediacy about how we take care of this precious planet.
Two decades ago, Buchanan saw his first polar bear in the wild, and he has gone back each year to experience these incredible creatures. He joined Polar Bears Alive’s Board of Directors in 2000 and was asked to write a long-term business plan. He and his wife, Carolyn, took on the task, from which emerged Polar Bears International. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their habitat through research and education. PBI also provides scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to all interested parties. With that mission, PBI has attracted some of the world’s finest scientists, zoologists, land management professionals, eco-tour operators, educators, government agencies, and other organizations that provide guidance for the most urgently needed projects.

Under Buchanan’s leadership, PBI has grown into an organization with an international scope, supporting projects throughout the circumpolar North and reaching audiences as far away as Japan and Australia with its conservation message. Funding provided by PBI helped support research that led to the listing of polar bears as a threatened species by the U.S. government. Scientists now predict that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could vanish by 2040 if current warming trends caused by global warming continue.

photo courtesy of Christy Mazrimas-Ott

Most recently, PBI signed a Memo of Understanding with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that will introduce educational materials about polar bear conservation and climate change into all AZA zoos. It also encourages the regular exchange of research between zoologists and scientists who study polar bears in the wild—the first time an agreement has been reached for this type of critical information-sharing.

“The mission of CZS—to inspire conservation leaders by connecting people with wildlife and nature—is parallel to PBI’s,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Society. “Both organizations recognize the increasing need for education and research, as well as the importance in motivating people to protect the world’s threatened wildlife and ecosystems. We believe Robert Buchanan and PBI are making a difference on many levels in protecting the polar bear and its habitat, and we will be communicating their work in our Great Bear Wilderness exhibit, which is scheduled to open in May 2010.”

photo by Jim Schulz

Through education programs sponsored by PBI, two CZS staff members experienced polar bears in their natural habitat in northern Manitoba, gaining firsthand insight into the plight of polar bears and helping spread the message about how people can make a difference to the bears’ future. One of the youth volunteers was selected to represent the Society during a Leadership Camp trip to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, the polar bear capital of the world. In addition, a senior keeper in Brookfield Zoo’s Mammal Department traveled twice to Churchill to serve as a guest lecturer aboard Tundra Buggies. While on the famed vehicles, which allow tourists to get almost nose to nose with wild polar bears, she taught tourists about polar bear natural history, as well as conservation and research efforts by PBI. “The programs that these women participated in are what we are all about,” added Strahl. “We invest time and resources to encourage them to continuously educate themselves and others about wildlife conservation.”

About the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal
The George B. Rabb Conservation Medal was first awarded in 2005 by the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society to honor the lifelong legacy of animal welfare and worldwide conservation leadership of George Rabb, Ph.D., president emeritus of the Society. Rabb’s dedication to advancing science and public understanding of the need to live harmoniously with nature continues to inspire conservation leadership around the world.