Aug. 7 - A polar bear at the Oregon Zoo is the newest member of a research team attempting to learn more about how bears in the wild are coping with habitat loss due to climate change. Ben Gruber reports.
It's time for Tasul's morning swim…one of her favourite activities. Tasul is a polar bear at the Oregon Zoo. And while she lives thousands of miles from her native habitat in the Arctic, biologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say she's playing a crucial role in bear conservation. According to Oregon Zoo curator Amy Cutter, Tasul is being used as a test bear for a technology the scientists hope to apply to animals in the wild…bears who are far less co-operative than Tasul.. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMY CUTTING, OREGON ZOO, SAYING: "It's very difficult to study polar bear in the wild. It's actually notoriously difficult and expensive to get to where they are and directly observe their behaviour." Tasul wears a collar that's equipped with sensors that record data about her everyday movements. showing USGS researchers how she spends her day. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMY CUTTING, OREGON ZOO, SAYING: " And so it is responding to very subtle motions on the bears' part, walking, sitting, even sleeping for long periods of time." ..And the researchers also film her from outside her enclosure as she goes about her day. They hope that by comparing video of Tasul with the data collected by the collar.. they can learn more about her behaviour…and if they can establish behaviour patterns in a captive bear, they believe it should also work with bears in the wild. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMY CUTTING, OREGON ZOO, SAYING: "If we can help biologists to better and more quickly understand what bears are doing and how they are responding to changes I really think that is one of the roles of a zoo. We want to educate our visitors and get them excited about polar bears. We want them to think about the action in relations to climate change. But we also want to make sure that these animals, when possible, are contributing to the larger base of knowledge about their species." And Tasul is doing just that. Ultimately, the scientists want to record data from bears in the Arctic, comparing their daily activities over several years to see how they adapt to climate change.