Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Zoo, SeaWorld form partnership

Organizations join forces for polar bear conservation

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Polar bears are coming to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, but don't expect Shamu the killer whale here, even though there's a new partnership with SeaWorld.

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy and Florida-based SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment have signed a memorandum of understanding to share information on research projects, wildlife conservation and public education programs as part of the international effort to conserve polar bears.

Don Peterkin, the conservancy's chief operating officer, said on Friday it's a great step as the zoo continues construction of its Journey to Churchill exhibit. It is scheduled to open in spring 2014, but earlier this year, the zoo opened the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.

"SeaWorld has a tremendous reach and they dedicate a lot of resources for conservation," Peterkin said.

"They're looking at the partnership as a way to get closer to Churchill and our home-court knowledge."

The two organizations' partnership will start with behind-the-scenes work, Peterkin said, but he's hoping in future they could have video linkups between the zoo and SeaWorld.

"Our mission is to provide enriching experiences that inspire our guests in ways that advance conservation, particularly in species that face as many pressures as polar bears," Brad Andrews, SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, said in a statement.

"Partnerships like this are a critical part of a long-term conservation strategy and something we are very enthusiastic about."

It's not the only polar-bear partnership the zoo has signed.

Last year, the zoo signed a collaboration agreement with the San Diego Zoo that in part is seeing both organizations work to educate the public on polar-bear conservation.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2012 A5

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