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Image / Editorial

Hungry polar bears forced to seek food in human settlements


By Grace McGettigan
13th Feb 2019
Hungry polar bears forced to seek food in human settlements

We’ve all heard the polar ice caps are melting. Experts have been saying it for years. But now, as a result of climate change, the ice has melted to the point that polar bears are no longer able to survive there. In Novaya Zemlya, a small cluster of islands in northern Russia, hungry polar bears have been searching for food in human settlements.

What’s happening?

Polar bears, who usually feed on fatty seals, can eat up to 100 lbs of blubber in one sitting. However, the loss of ice in the Arctic has made it difficult (if not impossible) for them to get access to seals, who spend most of their time in the water. In the Novaya Zemlya area of Russia, the bears have been left stranded on land.

While the polar bears may benefit from eating alternative foods (such as stray animals or items found in human refuse), Polar Bears International says there is no evidence these food sources can provide enough calories, in the right form, to sustain the polar bears’ population level.

We’re not just talking about one rogue bear who strayed off-path, either. We’re talking dozens of polar bears, who can no longer eat the food they require.

 

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A post shared by Irina Elis MURMANSK, RUSSIA (@muah_irinaelis) on

Desperate for food

Video footage on social media shows how desperate the polar bears in this region are for food. Some clips show them searching rubbish dumps for something to eat. Other footage shows them near people’s property, prowling near doors and windows. If you are sensitive about issues relating to animal welfare, the videos below may be difficult to watch.

 

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A post shared by Irina Elis MURMANSK, RUSSIA (@muah_irinaelis) on

 

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A post shared by Irina Elis MURMANSK, RUSSIA (@muah_irinaelis) on

 

What now?

With polar bears roaming the streets in such large numbers, it has been deemed unsafe for people to walk anywhere. Locals have been advised to stay indoors and to only travel by car.

A state of emergency has been declared, and according to The Guardian, Russian environmental authorities have deployed specialists to sedate and remove the bears to a more secluded region.

As the animals are classified as an endangered species, it is illegal to shoot or kill them.

Malnutrition and starvation

According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), there are as few as 22,000 polar bears left in the world.

They depend on sea ice as a platform from which to hunt seals, rest and breed. With the ice melting so rapidly, the bears are being forced ashore. “Some polar bears may suffer from malnutrition, and in extreme cases —especially females with cubs — they may face starvation,” says the WWF.

For information on how to save the polar bears, visit worldwildlife.org.

Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash


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