The WildLife: Polar Bears, Robert Buchanan

Robert Buchanan, President and CEO of Polar Bears International (PBI), shares the special adaptations of polar bears to a life on the ice. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how their huge paws, the size of dinner plates, act like snowshoes to distribute their weight and keep them from breaking through the ice. He also reveals that the thick, black pads on the soles of their feet are covered with “suction cups” to provide traction. These marine mammals depend on sea ice for most aspects of their life, including hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. That’s why the loss of sea ice due to climate change is so alarming. Summer ice in the Arctic has shrunk by almost 1 million square miles, an area roughly equal to the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined. Consequently, federal scientists believe two-thirds of all the world’s polar bears could vanish by 2050. That’s also why, in May 2008, the United States listed the polar bear as a threatened species under its Endangered Species Act.


Robert Buchanan made his first trip to the Far North and saw his first wild polar bear in the mid-1980s. He has returned every year since. After retiring from marketing for a leading global beverage company, Robert joined Polar Bears International’s board of directors in 2000 and became president and CEO of both PBI USA and Canada. Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat through research, stewardship, and education. Its main focus is to provide scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to institutions and the general public. Robert’s vision is to help the world understand the importance of the Arctic ecosystems and to inspire individuals to take action toward conserving the planet. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on February 14, 2010.