The presentation outlines a number of the currently ongoing activities of Polar Bears International (PBI), an NGO dedicated to protecting polar bears and their habitat. The main focus of the talk was on our human/polar bear coexistence work and the related resources developed by PBI and partners with the aim of keeping both people and bears safe in a rapidly changing Arctic:
“Detect and protect” – We have been working with collaborators to develop radar-based early detection systems.
These differ in operation distance and price range, but all have the ability (using AI) to detect polar bears approaching even in darkness or snowstorms and alert the authorities or polar bear patrol to deter them. This gives people time to move to safety and take necessary actions.
Deterrence methods – We studied polar bear spray (pepper spray) in the high Arctic, including its effectiveness in different temperatures and wind speeds, as well as the shelf life of the cans. Our studies show that bear spray is a useful tool in polar bear deterrence. Future research will include an investigating of the use of olfactory deterrence methods.
Community resources for those living with polar bears – We created coloring books with safety guidelines for children in polar bear areas (translated in several languages, including Russian). We also help local communities to become «bear safe» by installing bear-proof bins and managing waste properly to prevent bears from accessing it.
A few of PBI’s other projects were also presented including:
Maternal den study – A long-running project, currently in Svalbard, using solar-powered cameras to monitor known den sites (at a distance of up to 1 km). The cameras record emergence of the family group with details on their behavior and physical appearance as well as any changes in the surrounding environment. Various systems have also been tested to detect dens under snow, including infrared and radar (and this year, drone-mounted radar).
Improved tracking methods – With collaborators, we are developing new tracking devices for polar bears beyond just adult females, such as satellite ear tags and fur-mounted satellites (project “Burr on Fur»).
Zoo-based research – Polar bear research in zoos and aquariums can benefit wild bears. Zoo bears can e.g., inform data collected from wild bears or help develop new monitoring technologies. The AZA PBRC Research masterplan (North America) and EAZA polar bear research prospectus (Europe/Russia) outline prioritized possibilities for such conservation relevant research. The masterplan is available on our website, and the prospectus will be released later this year.