A clip of an emaciated, starving polar bear on its deathbed has gone viral and is now being widely used as photographic evidence in the intense debate surrounding climate change. Paul Nicklen and filmmakers from conservation group Sea Legacy created the video while shooting in the Baffin Islands in the Arctic Canadian territory of Nunavut.
Two things jump out while watching the one-minute long video. Despite being in the Arctic Circle, the Baffin Islands appear to be devoid of any ice whatsoever. And while polar bears generally appear girthy thanks to a steady diet of seal meat, the bear captured on film is famished to the point of looking sloth-like.
“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like,” Nicklen told National Geographic in a recent interview. “Bears are going to starve to death. This is what a starving bear looks like.”
In May of 2008, then US Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne officially listed polar bears as “threatened” under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing came as the result of continual loss of polar bear’s sea ice habitat resulting from climate change. In short, rising and warmer ocean waters created by the environmental damage humans have caused, melt the polar ice on which bears hunt the seals they need to survive.
Twitter users reacted to the video with sympathy and shock, while others asked why Nicklen and his crew kept the cameras rolling.
“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” Nicklen said. “[Intervening] crossed my mind. But it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat.”
It’s also illegal to feed polar bears in Canada.
This would be a good time to point out that President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement back in June. That decision weakened efforts to help curb global warming by pledging to reduce carbon emissions.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, while explaining his decision.