Adopt A Polar
The sky slowly darkened,
and snow began to fall more heavily. The
thermometer showed twenty degrees below zero. Max
was about to abandon today's search when he
detected movement in the snow at the limit of his
The object moved towards
him. At fifty yards he could see that it was a
polar bear. It continued to approach, having
sensed Max, upwind. At thirty yards the face of
the magnificent creature was clear.
Max pulled the crumpled
photograph from his pocket and compared the image
to the beast. There was the three-inch
scar on its nose; there was the tear in
its left ear - both badges of some distant
conflict. This was Bruno.
The hungry bear was now
twenty yards away and starting to run at Max.
His rifle-shot struck the
animal between the eyes. It tumbled and slid to a
lifeless halt on the ice, barely ten yards in
front of Max.
His mind returned to the
Christmas Day, three years previously, that he
had spent with his brother and sister-in-law in
England. They had clearly been delighted with the
expensive, weekend break for two that Max had
purchased as their Christmas present. He had
awaited the reciprocal gift with anticipation.
Max imagined, in a perfect
world, that John and Janet would discretely offer
him a night of sex with Janet. He felt this to be
unlikely, however, and would have been happy to
settle for a case of good wine. He was intrigued
to be handed an A4 envelope.
On opening the envelope and
reading its contents, Max was mortified to
discover that John and Janet, on his behalf, had
sponsored a Canadian polar bear.
He re-read the
documentation, and lamentingly confirmed that,
despite now possessing an adoption certificate
and a photograph of Bruno, the gift contained
nothing at all of any use to him.
He had feigned enthusiasm
and said something suitably eco-friendly. However,
the mental comparison of Janets naked body
with the scarred face of this polar bear, lost in
the Arctic wilderness, left him with a profound
feeling of depression.
Max was nursing this
resentment at home later that evening in the
company of the bottle of malt whiskey that he had
bought himself for Christmas, when he had an
inspiration which would lead to John and
Janets innovative gift changing his life.
Stage one of his plan
required locating Bruno. The representative of
the adoption department at the World Wildlife
Fund was most helpful. It appeared that Bruno was,
indeed, a real bear and had been regularly logged
as returning during the summer months to the town
of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, on the shores
of Hudson Bay.
Stage two of his plan
surprised his relatives as he sold his flat and
moved to Churchill, to arrive in the middle of
the Arctic winter.
There were no tourists
around at that time, and so it gave him an
opportunity to make friends with the local people.
He claimed to be writing a book on life in remote
Arctic settlements. The locals were friendly and
welcoming people and eager to talk about their
lives and skills. Contributing to Maxs
supposed research also added interest to their
lives during the unremitting tedium of the winter
Max was thus able to study
two critical skills, the learning of which
constituted stage three of his plan: hunting and
During his first summer,
Max made no attempt to locate Bruno. He
accompanied his new friends on hunting
expeditions to acquire their expertise, and he
took a job as an assistant chef at a local
restaurant. There he learned the best local
recipes for Beluga whale, seal, over 270 species
of sea birds and, of course, polar bear -
culinary delights only enjoyed discretely by
locals lest the sensibilities of the eco-tourists
It was the end of his
second summer when fellow locals helped Max to
load Bruno onto his sledge and accompanied him to
the restaurant kitchen. Stage four of his plan
would soon be complete.
As Max and all the friends
he had made tucked-into polar bear steak au
poivre from his own personal bear, he felt a
tinge of guilt about his uncharitable attitude to
that Christmas gift. Despite his initial reaction,
he had proved that a gift of adopting a member of
an endangered species could be a life-changing
John and Janet had also
noted the way in which their gift had made Max re-think
his life, although, admittedly, they had assumed
his interest in tracking Bruno to be more akin to
that of David Attenborough. Indeed, last
Christmas they had chosen to once again not offer
Janet in celebration of the Nativity, but rather
provide another vicarious animal adoption.
Anja was a Bengal tiger who
had been regularly tracked in the mangrove
forests of the Sundarbans in Eastern India where
the River Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal.
Max had already read some
books on Indian cookery and now possessed hunting
skills. Tomorrow he would be booking his ticket