Polar Bears Are Turning to Cannibalism, Here's Why
Wed, April 21, 2021

Polar Bears Are Turning to Cannibalism, Here's Why

 

Climate change has directly affected the ability of polar bears to feed and survive. A 2019 study revealed that sea ice in the Arctic has hit the eighth lowest extent in modern record-keeping. The ice levels in the region had also decreased by at least 40% over the last 25 years. Usually, polar bears use sea ice to hunt seals but with a lack of ice, they are forced onto the shore where they can’t hunt normally -- making it harder for them to find the nutrients they need to survive.

 

Photo Credits: EcoWatch

 

Thus, some polar bears have resorted to eating their own kind. While cases of cannibalism among polar bears are nothing new, scientists stated that we still need to be worried. “We state that cannibalism in polar bears is increasing,” Ilya Mordvintsev, a polar bear expert at Moscow's Severtsov Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution, said.

 

Photo Credits: Daily Mail

 

According to EcoWatch, the fossil fuel industry is driving polar bears to cannibalism, attacking their habitat and traditional food sources. Recent reports showed that the area from the Gulf of Ob to the Barents Sea, where polar bears used to hunt, is now a busy route for ships carrying LNG (liquefied natural gas). “The Gulf of Ob was always a hunting ground for the polar bear. Now it has broken ice all year round,” Mordvintsev said. 

 

Photo Credits: MobyGeek

 

A recent study discovered that polar bears in Canada and Greenland have been losing weight and having fewer babies because of reduced sea ice. They were also found hoarding the bodies of their kills by burying them in the dirt and snow so they can retrieve them. According to the Daily Mail, a British daily middle-market newspaper published in London in a tabloid format, while this behavior called caching is relatively common in brown bears and other bear species, it is exceptionally rare among polar bears. 

Also, the rise of reported bear cannibalism is mainly due to the increasing human presence in the Arctic. There are now more people to witness it. "Now we get information not only from scientists but also from the growing number of oil workers and [defense] ministry employees," Mordvintsev said.

 

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