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Polar bear habitat receives $75K grant

5 original paintings are also being donated to help with future fundraising efforts
(Supplied photo/Canadian Polar Bear Habitat)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify Science North's role in the donation.

The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat is getting a $75,000 grant.

J.P. Bradette, chair of the board of directors for the Canadian Polar Bear Habitat, announced the donation at the Cochrane council meeting last night (Oct. 10). The funding will allow the Cochrane facility to hire Science North to redesign exhibits.

The Canadian Polar Bear Habitat is a registered non-for-profit charity, with the objective of promoting the welfare of polar bears both in the wild and in captivity through research and education.

“The habitat has had to deal with many challenges over these last few years. But we are very, very pleased to see that with renewed leadership and with the support of this town council, the habitat is now pursuing its mission as the world's only non-for-profit organization that provides sanctuary for polar bears in need of human care,” Bradette said.

Bradette said the polar bear habitat is an important asset for the town.

“It’s a place where visitors from around the world can come and see and learn about these iconic animals,” he said.

The money is for upgrading education signage and exhibits in the habitat’s visitor centre, Bradette said.

“These exhibits were designed and installed in 2014 and are in need of being refreshed, as we understand. So, in collaboration with Science North, the new exhibits will focus on biology, ecology, climate change, and how visitors can take action to help and that's very exciting,” he said.

“The goal of the project is to increase visitor engagement and learning, track more educational institutions to the habitat, and ultimately increase overall visitor attendance. So, we’re very proud to support this important project.”

In addition to the grant, Bradette said they will also be donating five original polar bear paintings that can be used by the habitat in its future fundraising efforts.

“We look forward to seeing the Cochrane polar bear habitat thrive for many years to come,” he said.

Amy Baxendell-Young, manager of the habitat, said it’s been a goal of hers for a very long time to upgrade the educational offerings and exhibit for their guests.

“This means everything to us. We've worked together for a number of years now and this is very much appreciated,” she said.

“We’re getting more and more people every year who, when they come to us, they expect to learn and they expect to leave there with new knowledge and with a new passion for the environment.”

Mayor Peter Politis said he has nothing but gratitude to everyone who’s working hard to continue to establish what is now the largest natural habitat for captive polar bears on the entire planet that exists in Cochrane.

“The value of the facility, it doesn't get lost for people that are working there, I know, but it may not be as clear to someone who isn’t a part of it every day,” he said.

“This is not a zoo, per se. You have a natural habitat here for polar bears to exist in captive that allows them to live a life very similar to what they would experience in real life.”

Politis said the donation is not only generous but also something that will go to a good cause.

“The fact that the board and yourself have dedicated your time over the years, this is a commitment of love, quite frankly. It's a passion,” he said.

“You guys exhibited that passion not only from being vocal and your families being vocal, and so on, but from afar, recognizing that it's, you know, your roots, and you were able to focus on your roots and those folks who aren't from Cochrane who joined you are just as passionate, and we're just as fortunate to have their commitment to be able to also help us try to achieve what we're trying to achieve.”

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marissa Lentz covers civic issues along the Highway 11 corridor under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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