Photo: is this the first polar bear to die because of climate change?
Is the polar bear, pictured above, one of the first documented cases of a polar bear dying because of the devastating effects of man-made climate change? Dr Ian Stirling, renowned polar bear expert, thinks so.
A new climate report released yesterday shows that the Arctic lost record amounts of sea ice last year. And this is forcing animals to travel further away from their natural territories in search of food. Especially hard-hit are polar bears who feed almost exclusively on seals which they can only hunt on sea ice. "From his lying position in death the bear appears to simply have starved and died where he dropped," Stirling said. "He had no external suggestion of any remaining fat, having been reduced to little more than skin and bone."
The polar bear had in previous years been found and examined in the southern part of Svalbard by scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute. Back then he appeared healthy. But in July, the same polar bear had managed to travel 250 km to the northern parts of Svalbard - an unusual far journey away from its normal hunting grounds. Stirling believes that the lack of ice forced this polar bear to travel this far away in an unsuccessful attempt to search for food.
"The sea ice break up around Svalbard in 2013 was both fast and very early," Prond Robertson, at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute said. And previous years had been just as bad. "Warm water entered the western fjords in 2005-06 and since then has not shifted," Robertson said.