Renowned philanthropist and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson was in Toronto yesterday to to call for the protection of polar bears in Canada. [caption id="attachment_9172" align="aligncenter" width="267" caption="The majestic polar bear is at risk of extinction. Photo from Dreamstime"] [/caption] I bet you didn't think that was an issue, hmm? Polar bears going extinct? It turns out that Ontario hosts the southernmost population of polar bears in the world, with at least a 1,000 calling the province home. And not a lot of Canadians are aware of this fact. Branson, along with his foundation Virgin Unite, has partnered with the Canadian chapter of WildAid, a wildlife conservation organization, to promote legislation that will protect polar bears. He was also joined by Dr. William Rapley, the Toronto Zoo's executive director of conservation and wildlife; actress and WildAid board member Bo Derek; Rob Sinclair, executive director of WildAid Canada; and Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid. [caption id="attachment_9163" align="aligncenter" width="338" caption="Bo Derek and Sir Richard Branson at a press conference in Toronto, calling for the protection of polar bears. Photo by Simone Castello"] [/caption] Why should we be paying attention? For starters, loss of ice in the Arctic means the polar bears are losing their natural habitat. This, in turn, is forcing a large population of bears to migrate ashore earlier on in the year. All of this results in: - a decrease in body mass; - a decrease in litter sizes, and - a decrease in the total number of polar bears on our planet. Research also indicates that if we don't act quickly, polar bears will be extinct within the next 20 to 30 years. "As an American, I've always had the impression that Canada cares deeply about its wildlife," actress and activist Bo Derek said at the press conference yesterday. This is a fact that's not lost on younger Canadians. In fact, a group of young Earth Rangers were on hand to hear Sir Richard speak. And they came armed with questions of their own. [caption id="attachment_9166" align="aligncenter" width="289" caption="A young Earth Ranger quizzes the panel on what Canadians should be doing to protect the polar bears. Photo by Simone Castello"] [/caption] What can we do to help the polar bears? Awareness is key. As a starting point, we must educate ourselves on factors that are adding to the extinction of polar bears. You can visit WildAid Canada's website and check out their literature on this topic. Furthermore, you can also sign their Polar Bear Pledge, petitioning the Canadian government to do more to protect this iconic national symbol. How aware are you of the dangers to our ecosystems, and do you support any nature/wildlife organizations in Canada?