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Published: Monday, 10/4/2010

Toledo zoo official at 'polar bear capital'

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo Zoo program manager Linda Calcamuggio says her expectations 'are to be startled by the beauty' of the surroundings of the camp sponsored by Polar Bears International. Toledo Zoo program manager Linda Calcamuggio says her expectations 'are to be startled by the beauty' of the surroundings of the camp sponsored by Polar Bears International.
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Linda Calcamuggio says she is looking forward to a "life-changing" experience this week.

Ms. Calcamuggio, 61, the Toledo Zoo's program manager, is one of 18 North American educators and public relations professionals chosen for a week-long Communications Leadership Camp sponsored by the conservation group Polar Bears International.

She was to leave Sunday for Churchill, Manitoba - a town of about 1,000 people along Canada's Hudson Bay that prides itself as the "polar bear capital of the world."

Inland polar bears wait on the bay's vast peninsula until the water freezes so they can hunt seals, the main staple of their diet.

Visitors are able to observe the man-eating beasts from the safety of modified buses known as tundra buggies and through windows at the Tundra Buggy Lodge at Polar Bear Point.

"Zoo communicators have the ability to reach a wide audience with a conservation message," Robert Buchanan, the group's president, said. "They spend a week on the tundra during the fall polar bear migration on the shores of Hudson Bay."

Think of Ms. Calcamuggio's week in Churchill as a boot camp for polar bear research. The trip, she said, is likely to include a visit with Churchill's mayor, a visit to an abandoned bear den, and lectures about how climate change imperils the polar bear's future.

"My expectations are to be startled by the beauty," Ms. Calcamuggio said.

Her selection for the trip is the fourth time that someone from the Toledo Zoo has been chosen in recent years for the conference.

Ms. Calcamuggio jokingly called herself "probably the oldest ambassador who's ever gone."

She said she wants to make a concerted effort to reach out to both children and seniors when she gets back.

"I'll talk to pretty much any group," she said.

Ms. Calcamuggio said she wants to use her experience to pitch a story to AARP's magazine and possibly write a children's book.

"Our mission at the zoo is to inspire others to care," she said. "This is what I want out of it. I would like to inspire others to know and care about animals."

Ms. Calcamuggio plans to write about her experiences this week on a Polar Bears International blog at www.polarbearsinternational.org/programs/pbi-leadership-camps/groups/communicator-leadership-camp.

More information about her is at www.polarbearsinternational.org/programs/pbi-leadership-camps/groups/communicator-leadership-camp/linda-calcamuggio.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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