February 27, 2019 7:57 pm

Manitoba Moose partnership with Assiniboine Park Zoo helps save polar bears

WATCH: Thousands of dollars are expected to be presented to the Assiniboine Park Zoo as a result of their Feb.10, 2019 game day and online auctions of this year's polar bear-themed jerseys.

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Polar Bears have such a powerful connection to Manitoba and we’re learning more about them thanks to a partnership between the Polar Bear Rescue Team at Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Manitoba Moose hockey team.

Each year the AHL team swaps out their jerseys for a game dedicated to raising awareness — and money — for the Polar Bear Rescue Team.

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“The things that they are doing with their polar bear rescue and care team are really amazing for that species.

“They go and rescue orphaned bears and provide them with a wonderful environment that they can not only survive in but also thrive in,” said Brad Andrews, director of hockey and business operations for the Manitoba Moose.

READ MORE: Moose meet and greet at Assiniboine Park Zoo

Over $25,000 was raised in the first three years of the four-year partnership. Thousands of dollars more are expected to be presented to the zoo as a result of the Feb.10, 2019 game day and online auctions of this year’s jerseys.

“Our designers have had a lot of fun with it over the years. We’ve had a lot of great logos and a lot of great jersey designs,” Andrews said.

The look of this year’s jersey features a logo of a polar bear on the front, four stripes on the sleeves to mark the four year partnership and a shoulder patch combining the moose logo and a polar bear.

In addition to helping fund the massive space the nine orphaned polar bears live in at Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit, money is also put toward research.

READ MORE: Winnipeg zoo’s Journey to Churchill introduces two new bear cubs

The more scientists learn about polar bears, the more they can safeguard the species.

Dr. Stephen Petersen is the head of conservation and research at the zoo.

“The bears that we have here are all orphans that would otherwise die in the wild, and when they come down here they take a lot of resources and staff time to provide the high level of care that we can for them down here,” Petersen said.

Some of his team’s field research has been on polar bear denning, to look at where bears den in Canada so they can help communities protect certain areas at critical times.

READ MORE: Grizzlies, black and polar bears found together for 1st time

The research team is also doing genetic profiling of the polar bears, adding the information to a national data base in an effort to track down information on the mothers of orphaned cubs.

“Is it older moms, younger moms that are having orphans? Do we ever see those moms again in the population?” Petersen said.

“So we’ve been trying to use those genetic pieces of the puzzle to understand what’s happening in the wild, with the aim of not having as many orphans roaming the Hudson Bay area.”

In addition to raising money for the Polar Bear Rescue Team, the Manitoba Moose also host an annual event for fans at the zoo’s Journey to Churchill Exhibit.

The Moose players get to interact with the fans and watch the polar bears in action.

“It provides a really unique environment for our players to interact with those fans,” Andrews said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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