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Polar bear expert shares limelight with Alaska Zoo animals at 'Feast for the Beasts'

Aphun sticks her nose through the bars of her enclosure to get a better whiff of the benefactors that were at the Alaska Zoo for their Feast for the Beasts fundraiser, June 21, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Daisy the porcupine gets out of her enclosure for a meet and greet with Alaska Zoo benefactors at the Feast For the Beasts fundraiser June 21, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Terry Antrobus handles Freya, a snowy owl at the Feast for the Beasts fundraiser at the Alaska Zoo on June 21, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Dr. Steve Amstrup, senior scientist for Polar Bears International, talks with Alaska Zoo director Pat Lampi at the Feast for the Beasts fundraiser on June 21, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Ahpun the polar bear reaches through the bars for a fruit "popsicle" during the Feast for the Beasts fundraiser at the Alaska Zoo on June 21, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Jim Rutkowski holds Chance the fox at the Alaska Zoo's Feast for the Beasts fundraiser on June 21, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Loren Holmes

The Alaska Zoo hosted one of the world's foremost authorities on polar bears at its annual summer gala and fundraiser Thursday night.

Dr. Steven Amstrup is a 2012 recipient of the prestigious Indianapolis Prize for his conservation efforts. It is awarded every other year to an individual who's made "extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts involving a single animal species or multiple species."

Amstrup worked as a lead researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska early in his career, and solved the mystery of where polar bears give birth to their young. In 2007, Amstrup led an expedition to assess future impacts of global warming on polar bears; the nine reports produced by researchers became the basis for the 2008 listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears are the first, and so far only, species to be placed on the list due to the threat posed by global climate change.

At the Alaska Zoo event, Amstrup talked about the importance of polar bears at zoos to raise awareness of the animal's struggle in the warming Arctic. Amstrup wasn't the only big draw. Silent and live auctions were held and guests got to visit with many of the zoo's animals. A gourmet dinner also was prepared by Chef Al Levinsohn from Kincaid Grill.