Polar Bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on the sea of the Arctic Ocean. They are talented swimmers and can sustain a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws. They spend over 50% of their time hunting for food, but less than 2% of their hunts are successful. Since they need large amounts of fat to survive they mainly eat seals.
The total polar bear population is divided into 19 subpopulations. The latest data from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that 8 subpopulations are declining and main reason is due to the climate change.
Because of the climate change, they are loosing their habitat and is now listed as a threatened species.
Why Polar Bears matter to us:
Some people might not know but polar bears are at the top of the food chain and have very important role in the overall cycle of the marine environment. Not only that, but also they have been an important part of the cultures and economies of Arctic People.
What kind of threats are they dealing with?
Current population over polar bears are around 20,000-25,000, and their extinction wrist is vulnerable. Like i said above, the lost of sea ice habitat due to climate change is the biggest threat to the polar bears. How important is the sea ice to the polar bears? VERY IMPORTANT. They depend on sea ice as a platform to hunt seals, rest and breed. Every your, the summer sea ice is decreasing in size and melting for longer periods of time. Many polar bears not suffer from malnutrition and other face starvation, especially the female bears and the cubs. Climate change is also resulting in more habitat fragmentation, creating more opportunities for oil and gas development and increased shipping.
Other key threats include polar bear human conflicts, over harvesting, and industrial impacts.
Polar bear-human conflicts: climate change forces polar bears to spend longer time onshore, so they come in contact with humans.
As summer sea ice retreats, a new ocean is emerging, which allows more opportunities for industrial development at sea and on larger parcels of land. At the same time, the retreating ice is resulting in more polar bears spending longer periods on land for denning. These factors combined are putting polar bears and industrial activities on a potential collision course.
Offshore petroleum installations and operations in the Arctic are expected to increase in number. This would likely affect polar bears and their habitat in many ways including:
-contact with spilled oil would be fatal
-an oil spill would affect the entire food chain
-noise generated from onshore and offshore oil operations would cause disturbance
-Increased Arctic shipping represents a risk to polar bears. As traffic by barges, oil tankers and cargo ships in Arctic waters increases, so do the risk of oil spills and human disturbance to polar bears.
Many Arctic area have strong polar bear managements but there are still few places where unsustainable hunting takes place.
Then what can we do to help?
1) Take action
Tell the federal government to keep the Arctic pristine and not jeopardize our natural heritage and local communities over risky oil exploration.
2) SHOP TO SUPPORT WWF
Shop at AmazonSmile to support our global conservation efforts every time you buy. It’s the same Amazon.com you know—same products, same prices—and 0.5% of each purchase price is donated back to WWF.
3) ADOPT A POLAR BEAR
Make a symbolic polar bear adoption to help save some of the world's most endangered animals from extinction and support WWF’s conservation efforts.
Text and images via: WWF