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polar bears

Artist Spotlight: Kal Barteski

KAL BARTESKI is a Winnipeg-based multimedia artist, activist, and author known for her signature illustrated typescript and wildlife paintings. Her artistic journey has seamlessly evolved from a love of painting animals into projects with a purpose.
    The aspiring artist sold her first painting (a portrait of a dalmatian) in Saskatchewan at the age of 8, validating her pursuit of doing what she loved. Kal’s move to Winnipeg in her twenties proved to be the ultimate brush with destiny, as a fascination with a polar bear at the zoo inspired an impressive portfolio of 150 polar bear paintings that became an international sensation.
    Regular visits to Churchill, Manitoba prompted study of polar bears and their habitat, leading to The Polar Bear Fund initiative in 2016 supporting non-invasive polar bear research. In June 2017, Kal participated in Churchill’s mural festival and inspired a “Back Alley Arctic” campaign in Winnipeg’s Wolseley neighbourhood (pictured). The walkable art gallery included several garage murals featuring her beloved bears and other illustrated wildlife.
   
Kal’s wild obsession garnered attention from Brent Christensen, Creator/Founder of Ice Castles, spurring a cool collaboration. Kal’s paintings can be viewed inside the shimmering icy tunnels and glowing palatial archways of Ice Castles throughout the winter months at Parks Canada Place at The Forks.
    Of her famed polar bears, Kal acknowledges that “it’s not the hipster cool theme, but I’m grateful for who I am and how this intuitive journey has gifted me some beautiful opportunities.”
   Followers can view her work website kalbarteski.com and on Instagram @kalbarteski.

Visit Wild Churchill Without Leaving Winnipeg at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

By Dunja Kovacevic

Tundra Treasures

Peer into the little explored but often mythologized world of the Arctic tundra with the Assiniboine Park Zoo‘s landmark exhibit, Journey to Churchill. Cutting-edge technology, top of the line research facilities, unparalleled attention to authenticity and environmental stewardship have set the bar for polar bear conservation centres, now recognized as the “Manitoba Standard”.

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Majestic Manitoba

The story of Canada’s north is still a largely untold one. With environmental crises looming, the role that Manitoba has in protecting the legacy of the north and shaping the narrative of future generations is becoming increasingly important. By dazzling the senses and engaging the public, Journey to Churchill represents a monumental step towards Winnipeg’s growing reputation as a global leader in environmental and human rights.

The ambitious exhibit is both a love song to the untapped beauty of the north and a ringing call to arms. Opened in 2014, it is the first exhibit of its kind, aimed at education about climate change and conservation issues focused on northern species. According to Margaret Redmond, President and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), Journey to Churchill is “unparalleled in the zoo world in terms of its focus on northern wildlife and the immensity of the space given.”

Photo by Brad McCann

Photo by Brad McCann

Polar Bear Pilgrimage

Some 10-12,000 eco-tourists and adventure seekers file northward to Churchill, Manitoba’s Arctic jewel, each year in search of the Great White. Aptly named the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, the wind-swept tundra has become a mecca for the world’s largest terrestrial predators, located at the crosshairs of their migratory patterns. Thrill seekers take to the frozen expanses of the tundra to catch a glimpse of these incredible carnivores.

While nothing can mimic the heart-pounding adventure of interacting directly with the bears in their icy environment, Journey to Churchill offers and experience of observing polar bears and other northern species undetected. Within the expanse of the exhibit are four main areas: the Wapusk Lowlands, Gatewa to the Arctic, Churchill Coast and the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

The Gateway to the Arctic contains polar bears and their primary food source, the ringed seal, in adjacent pools separated only by a thin clear wall. Expect dynamic interactions between the animals, who are able to see and smell one another through the wall, as they pivot and thrash in the exhilarating quickstep between predator and prey.

Perhaps most exciting is the Sea Ice Passage, a 10-foot wide acrylic tunnel that serves as the primary vantage point for viewing polar bears and ringed seals beneath the water. The exhibit functions as a “living laboratory” says Redmond, presenting rare and unique opportunities for field researchers to observe behavioural patterns of polar bears and seals beneath the ice.

Along with boundless roaming space, the exhibit features an on-site state-of-the-art research facility. The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre not only promotes conservation research, but is home to the only transition centre for orphaned and at-risk polar bear cubs rescued by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. At the centre, they are rehabilitated before being relocated to designated safe areas.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Staggering Specs

In order to begin construction on the exhibit, 86,699 metres of earth had to be transported. The tundra area of the exhibit, home to caribou, musk ox, snowy owls, and arctic foxes, covers 3,714 square metres. Polar bear roaming grounds within the exhibit span an immense 9,507 metres squared. Pools for polar bears and seals contain a total of 1,959,714 L of water. The indoor Polar Playground and Tundra Grill alone house some 238 people. The cutting edge 360 degree domed Aurora Borealis Theatre measures over 13 metres in diameter, and 5.5 metres high. Despite these scale considerations, the zoo is making every overture towards sustainability, even seeing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Gathering Ground

Parks and zoos have long been spirited gathering grounds for families and larger groups. With this in mind, the Churchill Coast area is focused on immersive family fun. Children can explore the Polar Playground, which is packed with interactive and educational activities such as a moving ice-mass floor that responds to footsteps. Parents can unwind at the Tundra Grill, a fast-casual cafeteria-style setting with massive windows overlooking Churchill.

Also located within the Gateway to the Arctic is the Aurora Borealis Theatre, which hosts a domed 360 degree viewing screen. An interactive video weaves the interconnected legacy between the people, plants, and animals of Canada’s north. At night, the room is transformed into a bewitching backdrop for storytelling and concerts while the Northern Lights play above.

Visit the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s website for information on hours and admissions.

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Mega-morphosis at the Newly Updated Assiniboine Park Zoo


Animals are second nature to Assiniboine Park Zoo, and this year’s dramatic transformation has made the site a natural choice for Where Winnipeg’s 2012 Best New Attraction of the Year.

by ERIN CHATELAIN

We all remember touring zoos as children with wide, curious eyes. Young and old experience that same magical wonderment exploring Assiniboine Park Zoo’s newly upgraded animal exhibits. Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s exciting $200 million expansion has completed its first phase, with a revamped Duck Pond, and construction of Nature Playground and Qualico Family Centre. With $120 million earmarked for a dramatic zoo makeover; Toucan Ridge, Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden, International Polar Bear Conservation Centre and Birds in Flight have emerged as four signature attractions, making Asia, the boreal forest, the Arctic and the Prairies accessible right here at home. Completion of a state-of-the-art 10-acre polar bear habitat, Journey to Churchill, will wrap up the renovation project by 2014. (more…)

10 Nature and Wildlife Safaris Across Canada

By KAT TANCOCK

Orca, British Columbia (Photo: Jonathan E. Shaw)

You don’t have to go as far as Africa for a world-class nature experience, whether it’s wildlife viewing or something a little less traditional. Bring homegrown excitement to your next vacation with these 10 Canadian wilderness and wildlife safaris. (more…)

15 Extreme Canadian Winter Activities

By Meghan Wilson-Smith

It doesn’t take long for Canadians to feel the doldrums of winter start to take hold. But, being the clever Canucks that we are, we’ve figured out exciting ways to make winter full of exploration and adventure. From cave exploration to kite boarding (on ice) to dog sledding, winter can be a time when your best vacation memories are made. Let’s stop hibernating! It’s time to appreciate Canada for the winter wonderland it is. (more…)

Journey to the Polar Bear Capital of the World

Photo by Mark Cosgriff

By Kristina Breckon

On the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba is a hidden gem for eco-tourists: Churchill, Manitoba. This small town of 900 permanent residents is known as the polar bear capital of the world. Approximately 300 of the up-to-1,600-pound bears pass through here each fall.

Polar bear season runs until the end of November, so book now to avoid disappointment. If you miss bear season, take heart that visitors to Churchill in late December to March are often treated to world-class views of the northern lights. (more…)