This past week, these images of a sick polar bear began going viral across a number of websites.
Many cited climate change as the reason for this bear's poor health. We decided to reach out to the photographer who took this shocking image for a first-hand explanation as to what might be the cause of this animals poor state.
The photographer's name is Kerstin Langenberger a native of Germany currently living in Iceland. She has a degree in Environmental Science and is certified as an Arctic Nature Guide. She was able to capture the image while leading a small expedition.
"We have to be careful declaring anything to be definite proof for climate change."
Those were the first words she told APlus.com over email.
However, there is evidence of the environment changing. She pointed to factors such as melting glaciers and a decline in sea ice as "the most visible examples," in the Arctic.
The decrease in sea ice means the food chain can be become disrupted because there is less zooplankton and phytoplankton, food that is important for the arctic marine ecosystem.
Less sea ice also means that bears are left stranded on land, "where there is not much food to be found." This would not be the first bear she saw in a condition such as this and in her opinion, climate change is a factor in this chain of events.
"We realized that the yellow dot on the ice floe was a bear."
Bears are not pets and it is hard to help an animal " on the brink of death," she explained. "Even if it would have found food right away, it's in such a bad state... it would have very likely died of a tranquilizer if anybody would have tried to catch it, or drowned when it swam away from this ice floe."
"If you really want to help a polar bear, than take climate action in order to save its habitat."
Although conditions are declining in their natural habitat, rescuing animals and putting them in a zoo, is not a good alternative.
While some zoos are creating larger enclosures for animals, it isn't the same as roaming free. After Langenberger saw how polar bears interacted and behaved in the wild, she said she can no longer visit zoos.
This does not mean she has disdain for zoos, but from her viewpoint, "a human enclosure can never substitute the wild habitat," where these magnificent and intelligent creatures, "roam huge distances." She added, bears in captivity display different behaviors than they do in nature and "will never learn the amount of things they learn in the wild."
Instead of removing them from their natural homes, we need to do more to protect their habitat. "If you have the choice to protect an animal in the wild, this is what we should do," she explained
"We have to understand that we are not only harming some far-away animals by ignoring climate change, but also our own future and those of coming generations."
So how do we go about stopping climate change?
Langenberger said the philosophy is quite simple: "Every single gram of CO2 which is not blown into the air will help to slow down climate change."
While activists and voters can help shape government policy, we can help in other ways as well.
Langenberger listed a few of them:
- Use cars and airplanes less often
- Save energy at home and switch to renewable energies
- Buy local products instead of those being shipped around the globe
- Produce less garbage and recycle more
- Use fewer plastics (for instance, don't buy bottled water)