A recent photo of an emaciated adult polar bear that went viral on the Internet and made people think whether global warming indeed makes the majestic creatures in the Arctic starve to death might be taken out of context, experts claim.
Some researchers say that malnourished animals are a common sight in many populations. Moreover, the bear’s poor condition may have other causes including a disease or injury.
But the photo is distressing enough to make people think whether climate change may also be a culprit. A cohort of studies had shown that the diminishing sea ice in the Arctic influences how the beautiful animals live and feed. Many of them are forced to look for food inland where they find certain death because food is scarce there, as well.
The recent snap of the starving polar bear was taken by Kerstin Langenberger who also posted a heart wrenching message on her social media account urging people to take a minute and think about the health of polar bears in the Arctic.
Langenberger wrote that it isn’t the first time she saw a scrawny polar bear desperately looking for food. She also argued that the beautiful fat polar bears we are accustomed with in pictures are only males who sit on the pack ice all year long. Females instead and their cubs are doomed to starve to death, the photographer also wrote.
“Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females – like this one here,”
Langenberger added about the bear caught in the viral photo.
But Karyn Rode of U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage and wildlife expert believes that the image is misleadingly taken out of context. Rode argued that animals that are in poor conditions may be also old, or affected by injuries. Lack of food caused by shrinking sea ice may not be the only reason for such poor sights.Rode thinks that the bear in the photo may also be injured.
A spokesperson for Polar Bears International, a non-for-profit focused on monitoring polar bear populations, agreed that such sights are not uncommon especially because polar bears do not have natural enemies and when they die at a young age it is often because they starve to death.
But as global temperatures rise, and sea ice melts way, polar bears may find themselves without a home. Many of them try to find food on shorelines and fast longer. Polar Bear International acknowledged that sea ice retreat is the direct cause of poorer survival rates in polar bear populations.
Image Source: Wikimedia