After months of preparation, the international volunteer program is underway at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat.

Executive director Michael Honeth says two women from Taiwan and two from the U.S. – one of them a wildlife biologist from Alaska – have begun their two weeks.

He says they qualified by donating to the Habitat.

“And this is an opportunity for people to accompany their donations, to see where the money goes, to actually feed the bears and prepare their food, and it gives them a level of assurance that their money is well spent,” Honeth explains.

The volunteers will also sit in on lectures and training in conservation, ecology and climate change.

Eddy, one of the five polar bears currently living at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. (Heather Brouwer, Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat)

They’re staying with local families, exposing the entire community to their own cultures.

“We pay the home stay families as well,” Honeth notes,  “so there’s a benefit to the wider community as well.”

The five polar bears are pleased with their new friends, too.

“They seem to love having extra attention,” Honeth reports, laughing.