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Meet Polar Bear Habitat Representative Renelle Belisle

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The Polar Bear Habitat is lucky to have an active Board of Directors who assist in steering our path forward.  In previous newsletters, we’ve introduced Robert Buchanan and Suzanne MacDonald.  This time, we’re featuring Cochrane’s own, Renelle Belisle.

Renelle isn’t just our representative for Town of Cochrane Council, she has a history with the facility that spans generations.

We’re lucky to have her on our team!

Here’s what Renelle had to say when we prodded her with a few questions;


You’re not only a Director on our board, but also our representative on Town Council – why did you agree to be the Town’s representative?

A:            I have always been very enthralled by these stellar creatures so when the opportunity presented itself to serve as a director for the Habitat I was more than pleased.  My expectations at that time were to contribute to the Habitat’s well being and evolution and to learn more about polar bears.

Q:           Your family also has a history with the Polar Bear Habitat … can you explain what that is and how it motivates your involvement?  (i.e. your father was one of the original idea people … how does your involvement honour his legacy?)

A:            My father, Donald Genier visited Le Zoo Sauvage in St. Felicien Quebec and was intrigued by the possibility of something similar in Cochrane.  As he was the Mayor of Cochrane at the time he introduced and worked with the then town council on the idea of establishing a polar bear habitat which resulted in the doors to the Habitat opening in the summer of 2004.  I have embraced my father’s legacy by continuing to pursue his vision of protecting and promoting education and research through this facility.

Q:           What do you think of the recent expansion and improvements to the facility?

A:            The Habitat is now established and recognized as a world class facility housing 3 polar bears one of which is our precious Henry, who came to us from Australia as part of the expansion.   The recent expansion of the grounds around Hector Lake now gives the bears a natural living environment. These developments and improvements which in conjunction with the Habitat’s education component have not only attracted new research and development opportunities but has catapulted our site onto the world stage so I think we are doing very well in our endeavours.

Q:           What does the Polar Bear Habitat mean to Cochrane?

A:            We are very fortunate to have a community that has been supportive of the Habitat since its inception not only financially but in every other possible manner, donations, memberships, volunteerism, etc. Community support has seen the habitat through a natural evolve from a zoological institution to a centre dedicated to the protection of a threatened specie.

Q:           The Habitat was originally built as a tourist attraction, but tourists expect far more from facilities that house species at risk now – do you believe delivering conservation results will help make Cochrane attractive, and if so, how?

It is my belief that the conservation efforts being undertaken at the Polar Bear Habitat are nothing short of phenomenal and I believe the community and the public at large are aware of these efforts. Our community is a proud host to three polar bears, what could be more attractive than that in an age of climate change and warming oceans?

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