Saturday 10 December 2016

Emaciated polar bear 'doomed to death' fuels global warming debate

David Kearns

Published 14/09/2015 | 13:58

Skinny polar bear in Svalbard, Norway Credit: Kerstin Langenberger (Facebook)
Skinny polar bear in Svalbard, Norway Credit: Kerstin Langenberger (Facebook)
National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen took this photo of a polar bear in the same region Credit: Paul Nicklen

A picture of a horribly thin polar bear has helped renew the debate over the danger posed by global warming.

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The photograph of the iconic animal, along with another of a dead polar bear – a rare sight – has gone viral as many have taken the image as a sign of global warming’s effects.

The picture was posted by Kerstin Langenberger who spotted the bear on the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard.

She said: “Yes, I have seen bears in good shape – but I have also seen dead and starving polar bears.

“Bears walking on the shores, looking for food, bears trying to hunt reindeer, eating bird’s eggs, moss and seaweed.

“Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females – like this one here.

For tourists and wildlife photographers, the main reason to come to Svalbard is to see polar bears. And yes, usually we...

Posted by Kerstin Langenberger Photography on Thursday, 20 August 2015

“A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land.”

Many sharing the image on Facebook and other social media are saying it is a sign of how global warming is destroying the planet.

According to NASA, the average global temperature has increased by almost one degree Celsius since 1880.

Two-thirds of this warming has taken place since 1975, the space agency said.

A photo posted by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen took this photo of a polar bear in the same region – a place he had visited numerous times before – and noted in his description that it he believed it was evidence of the harsh reality of climate change.

“In all my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I have never found a dead polar bear,” he said.

He suggests that this particular polar bear died as a result of an absence of sea ice, leaving it unable to hunt seals.

“Rapid sea ice loss is depriving polar bears of their habitat, since they depend on the ice to hunt prey.

“Ice loss has been particularly noteworthy in recent years in northwestern Svalbard,” said Ian Stirling, an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta who has studied polar bears for four decades.

Speaking Mashable.com, Mr Stirling said the bear most likely, but not certainly, died as a result of starvation related to sea ice melt.

“You can’t say 100 pc that it starved to death, but that’s probably what happened,” he added.

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