Amusing Monday: Celebrating polar bears

Wednesday is International Polar Bear Day, an unofficial holiday that is gaining increasing attention as more and more people become worried about the future of this unique species.

Nobody seems to know how Polar Bear Day got started, but it has strong connections to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage and to Polar Bears International, which is leading an enthusiastic campaign to curb global warming and reduce the loss of sea ice, which may be the greatest threat to polar bears.

The campaign goes by the name Save Our Sea Ice! or just SOS!. Check out this bulletin board created by first and second graders at Carpathia School in Winnipeg.

A couple years ago Roger Di Silvestro of National Wildlife magazine listed “13 Things You May Not Know about Polar Bears” to recognize International Polar Bear Day.

For example, he explained that the fur of polar bears is not white; it’s actually transparent. The way it reflects light makes it look white. As an animal ages, it may appear more yellow.

While it is hard to tell a male polar bear from a female, the fur on the front legs may reveal the sex. When mature, males tend to have much longer hair on their forelimbs.

Polar bears are closely related to brown bears. In fact, the two species can interbreed and produce fertile young. Some say they could be considered the same species. While brown bears and polar bears appear to have evolved from a single species, neither can survive in the other’s habitat, leading to almost total genetic isolation.

There are dozens of videos on the Internet showing polar bears in all kinds of conditions. But I’ve posted three of the most amusing. The first video, top, includes a song by Tom Rugg about Bjorn the Polar Bear with video footage by Daniel Zatz, an Emmy-Award-winning videographer with wildlifeHD.com.

The next one shows Knut, a baby polar bear rejected by his mother and raised by zookeepers at the Berlin Zoological Garden until he died two years ago at five years of age. His story is told on Wikipedia.

The third video shows some dogs apparently playing with a polar bear that wanders into a research camp. Many of the details of this video seem to be lost.

For more amusement, check out this previous entry in Water Ways: Between polar bears and penguins, Aug. 1, 2011

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