The polar bears struggle to survive

The fact that global warming is affecting us today, really makes that every living being in the Arctic region to be in danger, but unfortunately there are species that are more vulnerable than others and the risk of their destruction is much higher.

Many of them are listed as Vulnerable or Least Concern, but this is because they maintain a stable population and yet their resilience helps them survive. To continue with the issue of climate change and ocean pollution, this situation could change abruptly and make all these species form part of the list of the most endangered, bringing irreversible consequences.

Most campaigns to save the Arctic use the Polar Bear as the main picture and as a way to get people to understand that the main and most powerful land predator in the region could exist no more, unless the problems are solved in time. Ursus maritimus is a carnivorous predator that balances the population of the species it preys upon and therefore their ecological role is fundamental. It’s currently on the Vulnerable category by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is expected that in the near future they will have much less space to survive.

Why are they endangered?

Changes in the ice seriously affect polar bear’s access to their prey. This makes it difficult for them to find food and can cause them to take longer to reproduce, as in the case of females, they need food reserves in their body to withstand the gestation period and birth. Similarly, should they reproduce and the female does not eat properly, the offspring would be born weak and the mortality rate would be very high.

When the ice gets thinner or completely melts, bears have to swim farther, which translates to a huge energy expenditure. If they don’t get their food in time to replenish lost nutrients, they would die of starvation.

Pollution is another problem for them. Toxic substances are both in the water and in the body of many species that they inevitably ingest. High levels of these contaminants have been found in the blubber of seals, main food of polar bears. A mother breastfeeding their newborns could be giving them contaminated milk, leading to an early death for them, or, growth with many deficiencies.

Oil explorations have also provoked disturbances in the lives of polar bears. When humans come to explore new Arctic lands, they do not foresee the existence of dens where mothers and offspring have their maternity process. It has been known that the noise caused by human activity has forced mothers out of hiding before giving birth, which completely alters the reproductive cycle, or worst yet, they inevitably abandon their cubs that are still unable to survive on their own.

The polar bear is also hunted by settlers to stock up on nutrient-rich meat and fur that is used for creating gloves, boots and pants. The bones are also used to make handcrafts and hunting items.
In 2001, IUCN specialists, discovered that the killing was exceeding the sustainable control in several towns and it would put at risk of extinction several populations of polar bear. The fact of not knowing exactly how many individuals exist in the Arctic, is a troubling mystery.

Polar bear cub in captivity

Polar bear cub in captivity

Zoos

Zoos have been considered as part of the solution to the conservation of these mammals, but is that really the best remedy for them? The life cycle of a polar bear includes roaming in kilometers of land, plunging into the waters, performing courtship, mating, battling between males, the permanence of mothers and cubs in dens, hunting, among other stages. They are natural predators and as such, they should live in freedom. That is why global organizations intend the Arctic to be a global asset and for no country to have rights over that area. Once achieved, all the animals that live there would be protected without having to be transferred to an artificial home.

An alarming case arose in late 2013 at the Mendoza zoo located in Argentina. A polar bear named Arthur who lived there for 20 years, endured temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and air conditioning was the object that was used to keep its body from getting warm. Public Petitions asked to move it to a Canadian zoo but the government refused, causing the creation of a social advocacy organization that was responsible for collecting signatures for the salvation of the mammal. Finally it was concluded that the animal was at the stage of old age, and therefore it wasn’t suited to perform its transfer for health reasons.
In that same zoo once existed another polar bear named Winner who died in Christmas 2012 as a result of the intense heat and stress caused by fireworks festivities.

These are some of the major problems that polar bears face, and all as a result of human carelessness; the lack of control, planning, accountability and respect for projects without altering the natural cycle of other living beings.