This heartbreaking video of a starving polar bear pulling its body across an iceless land reveals what climate change really looks like. The grim footage shows the emaciated bear barely clinging to life in what most likely are its final hours, and bears testament to the “deadly consequences” of global warming.
The heart-wrenching sight was caught on camera last summer by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen while on an expedition to Baffin Island, in Nunavut, Canada, along with filmmakers from the Sea Legacy conservation group.
The crew filmed the agonizing polar bear reduced to what looks like little more than a bag of bones, as it was desperately searching for food on the desolate terrain, devoid of sea ice.
“We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks.”
In the video below, the starving polar bear staggers towards a nearby trash can that Inuit fishermen sometimes use in a hopeless attempt to find something to eat. Unsuccessful, the exhausted bear collapses on the ground, its body meager with hunger.
The famished polar bear seems to be affected by muscular atrophy, National Geographic reports, noting that one of the animal’s hind legs is dragging behind it.
The hard-to-watch video was posted online by Nicklen on December 5, in the hopes of raising awareness about the impact of climate change. According to the Nicklen, he shared the footage on social media with the sole intention of sending a clear-cut message about the dangers polar bears face.
Climate change killed this polar bear. Animal agriculture is one of the single biggest causes of climate change. Please pay attention, we need to wake up before it’s too late. https://t.co/o0spRL5wUo?amp=1
— Esther TheWonder Pig (@EstherThePig) December 9, 2017
“My entire Sea Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy,” the photographer wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the video.
After publicizing the grim footage, Nicklen was repeatedly asked why he did nothing to help the emaciated polar bear, seemingly discovered a few hours before its demise.
The photographer clarified that feeding polar bears is illegal in Canada and that, even if he had intervened (as he admittedly was tempted to do), it would have only prolonged the animal’s suffering.
However, Nicklen points out that, although this particular polar bear could not be saved, there still are measures we can take to prevent this from becoming a common scene in the arctic.
“We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth — our home — first,” the Nicklen explained in his post.
“The simple truth is this — if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems,” he added.
Nicklen’s devastating video truly speaks to the dire effects of global warming on Arctic wildlife. The thinning sea ice makes it more and more difficult for polar bears to find food. For these animals, the loss of ice means the loss of hunting grounds, documents Live Science.
Polar bears typically hunt seals during the winter, which gives them enough energy and fat resources to cope with the long fasting months of summer. Nevertheless, as sea ice disappears from the arctic islands due to climate change, so do the seals, cutting into the polar bears’ food supply, the Huffington Post reports.
The climbing temperatures and melting ice deeply impact the polar bears’ way of life and have a dramatic effect on their behavior. The loss of sea ice has disrupted the pattern of their seal-hunting season, forcing polar bears to spend more months on land.
Stranded on the iceless terrain for longer periods of time, polar bears have inadvertently become the iconic victims of climate change. The World Wildlife Fund warned as early as 2002 that global warming is destroying critical polar bears habitats, and that these animals could ultimately face extinction at the hands of human-induced climate change.
The melting ice continues to pose a great threat to their existence, as shown by the more recent study published this year by the U.S. Geological Survey. The research provides evidence that the increased sea ice drifts compel polar bears to travel longer distances on foot and expend more energy finding prey, which in turn means they must catch and eat one to three more seals a year to compensate for the calorie loss.
“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death,” Nicklen said in a statement.