An online petition is demanding SeaWorld San Diego not separate polar bears as part of a global breeding program.
A Care2 petition has received almost 45,000 signatures asking the theme park to stop plans to transport Snowflake, a female polar bear, to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for breeding.
The petition demands that SeaWorld not separate Snowflake from her “best friend” Szenja, another polar bear who has lived with Snowflake for 20 years.
The park sent Snowflake, a 21-year-old bear, to Pennsylvania to breed with a male bear named Koda. It's not the first time the bear has made the trip.
SeaWorld San Diego issued a statement explaining how the trip is necessary because the animal is listed as "threatened" on the endangered species list.
"The knowledge gained from breeding visits like this will not only advance the ability to diversify and conserve zoological polar bear populations, but also help researchers, scientists and veterinarians learn more about how to save polar bears in the wild," the company said. Read the full statement below.
“Most polar bears are solitary, but there are exceptions,” explains Sharanya Prasad, Care2’s Manager of Campaigns Strategies. “Sometimes, wild polar bears form relationships that can last for years. The state of captivity may have created an even stronger bond between Snowflake and Szenja."
Those who have signed the petition are opposed to the breeding of animals in captivity.
“SeaWorld's plan to transport Snowflake across the country for its own benefit of acquiring new polar bears is both cruel and irresponsible,” writes Care2 petition author Julie Stankiewicz. “It is unfortunate that Snowflake and Szenja have lived their entire lives in captivity, and inhumane that SeaWorld would attempt to separate them after a 20-year friendship.”
According to the petition’s website, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the organization that sets standards and policies for animal welfare in the United States.
Entire statement from SeaWorld San Diego:
Snowflake, one of our polar bears, was transported to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium last Sunday (Feb. 26) on a breeding visit with a male polar bear there named Koda. The transport was flawless and Snowflake has quickly adjusted to the exhibit in Pittsburgh. This breeding effort is part of the Association of Zoo & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP is a program developed in 1981 by the AZA to help ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. The polar bear population in the wild is continuing to dwindle, and since 2008, the polar bear has been listed as “threatened” on the Endangered Species List by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This polar bear breeding effort keeps SeaWorld and the Pittsburgh Zoo at the forefront of wildlife conservation and education, and further demonstrates our commitment to conserve species in peril. SeaWorld and other zoos, aquariums and marine parks routinely work together to ensure animal populations in their care are appropriately managed, genetically diverse, and sustainable. The knowledge gained from breeding visits like this will not only advance the ability to diversify and conserve zoological polar bear populations, but also help researchers, scientists and veterinarians learn more about how to save polar bears in the wild. Over the past 4 years both our polar bears, Snowflake and Szenja, have visited the Pittsburgh Zoo for breeding. While, pregnancies did not result from those previous visits, we are hopeful that this visit will result in a pregnancy and will do whatever we can to ensure the survival of this important species.
In January, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund also awarded Polar Bears International $15,000 to support research to collect baseline information for long-term population monitoring - https://polarbearsinternational.org/news/article-research/seaworld-funds-polar-bear-study
Snowflake participated in a polar bear hearing study a number of years ago. This study was conducted by the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research under funding from Polar Bear International. It was the first step in developing science-based standards for preventing human-made noise effects on polar bears in the wild. This research was published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology in 2011 and has been disseminated to resource agencies in both the United States and Canada.
While Snowflake is in Pittsburgh, Szenja will continue to live at her Wild Arctic habitat at SeaWorld where she will continue to be cared for and enriched by her dedicated and passionate animal care team. Polar bears are typically solitary animals in the wild.