Wapusk National Park of Canada

Polar Bears International honours Wapusk National Park for leadership in polar bear conservation

February 21, 2013

Carolyn and Robert Buchanan, co-founders of Polar Bears International (PBI), the world’s leading polar bear conservation group, presented the Honourable Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, with PBI’s highest honour, the Champion of Polar Bears, in a ceremony today at the Toronto Zoo. PBI presented the award in recognition of Parks Canada’s leadership and conservation work in Wapusk National Park, which protects significant polar bear habitat like denning areas in Manitoba.

“For the past 15 years Parks Canada has played a worldwide role in polar bear conservation through research and monitoring, education, and conservation in Wapusk National Park,” Carolyn Buchanan said in presenting the award. “The scientific data gathered and its analysis, along with the park’s extensive educational programs, have allowed Canada’s most iconic species to be better understood throughout the world.”

“The Government of Canada is proud to receive the Champion of Polar Bears award from Polar Bears International in recognition of Parks Canada’s work to conserve polar bears and their habitat in Wapusk National Park,” said Minister Kent. “Wapusk National Park includes one of the largest known concentrations of polar bear denning habitat in the world and is a tremendous example of what Parks Canada does each and every day on behalf of Canadians at all of our parks and sites.”

Established in 1996, Wapusk National Park is Canada’s seventh largest national park, covering 11,475 square kilometres in northern Manitoba near the town of Churchill, and represents the Hudson-James Lowlands, a vast, low-lying plain on the western shores of Hudson Bay. The park is home to one of the world's largest known polar bear maternity denning areas, where pregnant females give birth to their cubs.

Within Wapusk National Park, Parks Canada’s first priority is to protect the park’s ecological integrity. Parks Canada works closely with a variety of partners, including universities, institutions and other government departments, to learn more about the park and its ecology through research. Parks Canada also monitors the impacts of stressors on the local ecosystems within the park’s boundaries, such as climate change and overgrazing by lesser snow geese.

Parks Canada’s mandate also includes presenting Wapusk National Park to Canadians through visitor experiences that inspire and connect hearts and minds to a stronger, deeper understanding of the very essence of Canada. Because the park is relatively new and due to its remote location, these opportunities have been limited to polar bear viewing trips and helicopter tours. However, Parks Canada is exploring options for new visitor activities like canoeing and kayaking on the Owl River, and hiking, dog sledding and over-snow vehicle tours.