Nora gets special visit from foreign dignitaries

Hannah Roth

(Photo Courtesy Columbus Dispatch)

Nora, the toddler polar bear born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, has played host to thousands of eager visitors since her unveiling to the public earlier this year. She's seemed oblivious to all the attention as she's romped and played in her Polar Frontier exhibit. And she'll likely remain oblivious today, when her guests include the U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic, Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., and the Kare Aas, the Norwegian ambassador to the United States.

The dignitaries are visiting Columbus to promote awareness for Arctic Sea Ice Day on Friday. A speech at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Ohio State University will follow their visit to the zoo to discuss the Arctic Council and the climate-based challenges they face with the changing Arctic region.

Arctic Sea Ice Day is a new designation by Polar Bears International to help draw awareness to the loss of sea ice in the Arctic and how that impacts the animals living there, mainly polar bears. According to the Polar Bears International website, July 15th was originally chosen because the ice in Western Hudson Bay, where a lot of polar bears live, would melt in the middle of July. Now the ice tends to melts at least three weeks earlier, so the July 15th date now serves to show how much things have changed.

Patty Peters, vice president of community relations for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said Arctic Ice Day falls in line with the Polar Frontier exhibit's everyday mission to highlight the importance of polar bear conservation. The zoo serves as an arctic ambassador recognized by Polar Bears International.

Zoo spokeswoman Shirley Blaine said, "Our interpreters at the zoo will be speaking with guests (today) about ways they can help polar bears in their native habitat. We also have signage at Polar Frontier with messaging about Polar Bears International (PBI) and Arctic Sea Ice Day."

While at the zoo Admiral Papp and Ambassador Aas will tour the Polar Frontier, as well as Manatee Coast and Discovery Reef.

Since 1982 only eight polar bear cubs on record have been hand-reared and Nora is one of them.