Tabs on a species at risk

1st June 2012 at 01:00
High-tech tracking devices allow pupils to follow the movements of endangered polar bears, writes Julia Horton

The final scene of The Last Polar Bears features a small, cuddly toy bear which appears just when it seems that the creatures have already died out.

Actor Tam Dean Burn, who plays the adventurous grandfather determined to find the last surviving bears in the wild, explains to pupils in the audience at Sanquhar Primary: "This represents a real, big, furry, enormous, giant polar bear at the North Pole that your school has now adopted and is going to help look after with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)."

Every primary on the National Theatre of Scotland's tour of the play has been gifted its own polar bear, adopted by the company through the WWF.

Over the coming months, dozens of pupils who watched the NTS's "carbon- light" production of the fictional environmental adventure tale, The Last Polar Bears, will be able to follow the real life stories of these wild animals as they hunt for food in the ever-reducing sea ice.

Each polar bear has been fitted with a special radio collar, attached to its neck, which provides experts with data on the creatures' movements through the Arctic.

The information on the bears' locations is beamed via satellite to the scientists who are using the data gathered through this tracking programme to help improve understanding of how the animals behave in their changing environment and how their lives are being affected by climate change.

The findings are added to the WWF polar bear tracking website, giving pupils an insight into the impact which their actions and those of people around the world are having on wildlife in remote regions.

Newsletters summarising the day-to-day lives of the bears will also be sent to schools, building on what pupils have learnt about the animals and the impact of the state of their environment on their survival.

- www.wwf.org.ukwhat_we_doworking_with_schoolsresourcesonline_ resources

- www.nationaltheatrescotland.comcontentdefault.asp?page=home_ TheLastPolarBears.

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