Polar bears are likely to go extinct before the end of the 21st century. This is what biologists and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature says about the iconic creatures of the Arctic. Well we might be telling stories of polar bears to our children if the climate continues to change at the present rate.
Why are Polar Bears going Extinct?
The climate change has devastating effects on the existence of polar bears. Over the past few decades the rise in temperature threatens the very existence of natural Arctic habitat. Sea ice disappears in warmer months and in winter the ice could not refreeze in a way it used to be. Summers are longer than winter. Polar bears are specialized hunters. They rely heavily on ringed seals for the consumption. Bears hunt seals on the sea ice and if more and more ice transforms into water the bear’s hunting platform disappears. As it turns out less than two percent of the hunts end up successful.
Scientists estimate 20,000 polar bears living today and each year they kill one million ringed seals. Were they all disappear by the next say 50 years the population of ringed seals is going to cross the optimum level.
While humans do not live in the Arctic except in small isolated population they do disturb the bear’s territory and range. Over the past few years white bears are beginning to feed on humans waste when the prey goes short. The unusual food source causes major trouble to bear’s metabolism. It may very well affect the polar bear’s lifespan in the long run.
Except for indigenous people, professional hunters are not allowed to hunt polar bears. In Canada these hunters kill polar bears for sports. Visitors sometimes set up a camp in bear’s territory and soon after killing the animal they make photographs with the dead polar bear. This is awful because local people shoot bears on purpose while professional hunters do this for adventure.
What if Polar Bears go Extinct?
White bears are apex predators throughout the Arctic Circle which means they don’t have any predator. They sit at the top of food chain. Polar bear’s extinction according to conservationists could create an imbalance in the Arctic’s ecosystem. For instance if the bears become extinct the population of ringed seals (the primary prey) could grow to an unmanageable proportion. Scientists estimate 20,000 polar bears living today and each year they kill one million ringed seals. Were they all disappear by the next say 50 years the population of ringed seals is going to cross the optimum level. As it turns out the population explosion disturbs the entire Arctic ecosystem.
Loss of Local Communities
The extinction of arctic bears is thought to disturb the indigenous people who rely heavily on polar bear’s fur, skin, and meat for daily consumption. Therefore the survival of polar bears is associated with the survival of indigenous communities. If polar bears die off local people die. In some of the native tribes the loss of a polar bear is not merely a loss of species in fact it is a bigger cultural demise. They speak high of bears so much so that they don’t even call them polar bears.
In the words of Bjarne Lyberth, a biologist for Kalaallit Nunaanni Aalisartut Piniartullu Kattuffiat (KNAPK) “In living memory, my people have never experienced the extinction of any animals in Greenland, so losing the polar bear would be very sad.”