Photos show plight of starving polar bears in the Arctic
Sunday, September 13, 2015, 7:46 PM - A shocking image of an emaciated polar bear in Norway has one photographer speaking out on the drastic effects of climate change on Arctic wildlife.
German photographer Kerstin Langenberger captured and shared the photo below on her Facebook page earlier this month.
Emaciated polar bear photographed in Svalbad, Norway by Kerstin Langenberger
The picture was taken in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean and popular spot for photographers and tourists to observe polar bears in their natural habitat.
"Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females - like this one here," Langenberger says in a post on her Facebook page. "A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land."
Polar bears are currently considered vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource's (IUCN) red list. The agency believes there has been a population reduction of more than 30 per cent in the last three generations, equal to about 45 years.
The main reason for this? Loss of habitat as a result of melting sea ice.
Rapid sea ice loss is depriving polar bears of their habitat, since they depend on the ice to hunt prey
"Global climate change poses a substantial threat to the habitat of polar bears," reads an official statement from the IUCN. "Recent trends for sea ice extent, thickness and timing of coverage predicts dramatic reductions in sea ice coverage over the next 50-100 years."
Langenberger says that despite local experts stating that the bear population is thriving, she has seen the effects of warming temperatures on the snowy bears with her own eyes.
“I see the glaciers calving, retreating dozens to hundreds of meters every year. I see the pack ice disappearing in record speed, " Langenberger has said. "Yes, I have seen bears in good shape – but I have also seen dead and starving polar bears. Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females - like this one here. A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land."
Recently, National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen shared a photo online of a dead polar bear in Svalbard. The pictures was taken in the summer of 2014 and shows an exceptionally skinny polar bear.
"On this occasion...we didn't find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive," Nicklen writes in a post accompanying the image on Instagram. "We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears. These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals."
Last summer I traveled with a group of friends to Svalbard, Norway in search of polar bears. We went to my favorite spot where I have always been able to find bears roaming around on sea ice throughout the summer. On this occasion, however, we didn't find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive. We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears. These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals. In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear. It is now becoming much more common. Through @sea_legacy and @natgeo we will continue to shine a light on our changing planet to convince the unconvinced. Please follow me on @paulnicklen to learn more about the effects of climate change. #polarbear #nature #wildlife #arctic #seaice @thephotosociety
Record-breaking polar bear spurs climate change concerns
In August 2014, a hungry and skinny polar bear raised concerns about climate change after it broke the record for the longest underwater dive with a remarkable time of three minutes and 10 seconds.
The bear smashed a previous record of 72 seconds. It swam 45 to 50 metres without coming up for air in an effort to stalk three bearded seals. The event was recently published in the journal Polar Biology, highlighting the desperate measures polar bears must take to survive and the link between climate change and melting sea ice.
Courtesy: Rinie van Meurs captures polar bear that broke diving record
"Increased diving ability cannot evolve rapidly enough to compensate for the increasing difficulty of hunting seals because of the rapidly declining availability of sea ice during the open-water period resulting from climate warming," the study reads.
The new record was witnessed and captured on video by professional photographer and Arctic guide Rinie van Meurs. At the time Meurs was out with a family on a boat to see polar bears near the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway.
Usually when polar bears stalk seals on ice floes, they hide behind other ice floes, van Meurs told CBC. However, in this case he said there was nothing to hide behind and the bear was forced to go underwater.
"He went to the extreme to make this work."
Swimming and without surfacing for air, the bear was unsuccessful in capturing the first seal as it escaped. Upon realizing this, the bear changed course, swimming towards the second seal. However, this seal got away as well.
"He was very, very, close," Meurs told CBC.
The previous record of 72 seconds was witnessed by polar bear researcher Ian Stirling from the University of Alberta in 1973. This was not the first desperate attempt to hunt, in 2011, CBC reports a female polar bear swam for about 700 km over a nine day period in search of ice floes to hunt on.
With files from Leeanna McLean
WATCH BELOW: Polar bear goes for a record underwater swim