Saturday, October 11, 2008
There are more than 22 thousand polar bears in the glacial Arctic, but this may soon not be the case if the Arctic keeps on warming up at double the pace as the rest of the globe. The species is at risk of extermination because global warming is causing ruinous environmental change in the Arctic, including the speedy melting of the Polar sea ice.
By nature they're one of the world's most robust swimmers but recently it was reported that four were found drowned in the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. They had apparently swam beyond their range and died after not being able to find suitable pack ice upon which to rest. Under these circumstances, they depend upon ice floes for their very survival. continued...
Bear drownings are natural but alarmingly, they are becoming increasingly more common. Additionally, birthrates are decreasing and fewer cubs are surviving.
Due to worldwide warming, the sea ice which polar bears inhabit dissolves sooner and sooner every year, leaving them with a more diminished domain in which to obtain food and increasing the number and frequency of bear drownings Although pollution and hunting are other real threats to polar bears, global climate change is the greatest of them all.
The problem has become so great that the World Conservation Union (IUCN) recently re-examined the status of the polar bear and has updated it to "vulnerable".
Some estimates say that unless radical mesaures are taken soon the polar bear may be completely killed-off as soon as the year 2040.
Compounding the problem is the fact that as Polar bears attempt to adjust to their thawing habitat, they appear to be having a few troubles doing so. As a result, in populated areas they're now considered a menace for human beings since they're exploring for food on beaches and in settlements they would normally avoid. Because of the conflict with man some bears are being killed out of fear by the local populace.
What Can Be Done?
Clearly something needs to be done to protect the Polar bear from eventual extinction. Although the problem is not an emergency right at this moment, we must not wait until it's too late to make a difference.
If we love animals, we must act right now to head off this avoidable disaster. At the same time we will also be protecting other Arctic life forms and ultimately ourseleves.
We simply can't stand by and allow the problem to errode to the point where this noble beast disappears from our world.
Thankfully, there are groups of concerned citizens that have organized to put pressure on governments to alleviate the stress on the Polar bears and their young.
Posted by Steve Bralovich at 12:37 PM
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Polar bear cubs start their lives as cute and cuddly youngsters.
This is in stark contrast to the majestic kings of the Arctic they will become if they survive to maturity.
Female polar bears have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight (usually at age five or six). Females in the Low Arctic wean their cubs as they approach their second birthday, while those in the High Arctic, where conditions are more a lot more harsh and demanding, care for their cubs an additional year
Polar bear cubs are most often born in pairs, but sometimes the litter contains three cubs and possibly only one cub. They're born between November through January in a den. These snow dens are known as "maternity dens" and are made to protect the newborn cubs from the freezing Arctic temperature extremes.Continue to the Video...
At birth, the cubs are 30 to 35 centimeters (12 to 14 inches) in length and weigh a little more than half a kilogram (about a pound) . Having no senses, during their first few vulnerable weeks of life, they nurse most of the time and stay as close as possible to their mother to keep themselves warm. The female has special crevices within which the cubs can get the warmth they need to survive.
Polar bear cubs are born small and helpless, with their eyes closed and their fur is very fine at birth, making the cubs look hairless. They get their first glimpses of their mothers after they open their eyes sometime during the first month.
The cubs grow very quickly while they're in the den, thanks to the calories in their mother's rich milk, which has a fat content of roughly 31% . Cubs often lie on there mothers belly to nurse while their mother sits back and puts her head back and seems to slightly move back and forth as if to rock the cubs. The cubs begin walking inside the den at roughly two months. During this time, the cubs still spend about 85% of their time in the den, sleeping there at night.
When she finally emerges with her cubs, most often in late March or April, she leads them to the sea ice so she can break her long fast by hunting seals. Cubs begin eating solid food at this time which is at approximately three to four months of age.
The cubs usually stay with their mother until they're 2 1/2 years old, although some bears in the Hudson Bay area wean their young at age 1 1/2 . When the cubs reach a point where they have suitable strength and coordination, and when they are able to walk well and respond to their mother's motion and sound commands such as stay or come, they are ready to leave their mother and the den.
During the time that the cubs are with their mother, they must learn how to hunt and survive in one of the Earth's harshest environments by watching their mother. A mother bear's success at hunting seals directly influences their well-being and determines whether or not the cubs will live or die once they are on their own. A mother will sometimes carry her cubs on her back through areas of deep snow or water if conditions are too hazardous for the youngster.
Once the cubs are weaned, either the mother bear or the male chases the cubs away so that they can begin life on their own.
Polar Bear Cubs and Environmental Issues
As you can see, Polar bear cubs are very vulnerable during their first few months. This period is the time during which most of the deaths from global warming and pollution take place.
Mother bears are feeding on polluted fish and seals. The pollution is stored in their massive body fat and when they have their offspring, they pass the pollution on to the young via there high-fat mother's milk. Often their cub's immune systems are too weak to fend off the toxins and the resulting complications, so they die.
Global climate change is shortening the time that bears have to breed and this means that they put off having their children until too far into the season. So, fewer bears are being born.
This double whammy is causing Polar bear populations to decrease dramatically.
One study estimated that only 43 percent of polar bear cubs in the southern Beaufort Sea survived their first year during the year 2000, compared to a 65 percent survival rate in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Clearly, something must be done to maintain polar bear reproduction at a rate that ensures the survival of the species.
Sign It Here Read more!
Posted by Steve Bralovich at 6:30 PM
Monday, January 28, 2008
New discoveries of Alaskan oil have spurred debate in congress with drillers on one side and environmentalists on the other side. Congress has until Feb. 6, 2008 to decide if they should lease key areas of Alaska to big oil companies.
CNBC has an interview online with David Houseknecht, with the U.S. Geological Survey and Kassie Siegel, of the Center of Biological DiversityRead more!
Posted by Steve Bralovich at 1:22 PM
Monday, January 21, 2008
I'm famous all over the world but especially in Canada where they even have my image on the back of their 2 dollar coin. That's probably because 60 percent of my extended polar bear family lives there. The rest of them live in Alaska, Norway, Greenland and Russia.
I earn my living in the freezing polar seas and can swim up to 60 miles at a time but recently I've had a hard time finding the ice packs I depend on to rest during those long swims. More and more of my brothers have died this way lately, hunting and foraging for food to feed their families.continued...
Unlike you land dwellers, we polar bears are marine animals. We need the ice packs to hunt for ring seals, mate, raise our young and take a break on our forages for food. Ring seals as you may or may not know, also live on the Arctic ice and make up the bulk of our diet. There's not as many of them as there used to be so we go hungry for longer periods of time. Without them we literally starve since other food is so scare in the Arctic.
It's getting tougher and tougher these days to find ice packs. I don't know very much about science but I hear people talking about global climate change or something like that and how it's causing my Arctic home to shrink. I don't know about that, but I can tell you that my swims are longer and I'm not as heavy as I once was because of it.
Humans are always trying to take weight off but we polar bears need it to survive the freezing temperatures and cold water we live in so we need large bodies with lots of fat. When we feed ourselves, we purposely eat the blubber of the seals in order to gain lots of weight and add insulation to our bodies. A fat bear is able to survive better in our icy, watery world.
Like you, we're mammals but we differ in many ways and live in places that most people usually avoid visiting. Maybe that's why some people don't seem to care about what's happening to us. It's hard to relate to us since you might only have seen us in a zoo and not our natural home where we're renowned as kings.
We're having fewer babies too. My mate can only give birth once every three years and since I'm spending more and more time looking for a meal, we've been missing the mating season so we haven't had kids for awhile.
If you haven't guessed by now, polar bears can't really speak. But if I could I would stand up for myself in the governments and legislatures of the world and tell them what's going on in my Arctic homeland.
Bears drowning, bears being hunted for sport, infants starving, pollution of waters and the animals I feed on, polar bear cannibalism, bears so thin you can see their bones through their fur, bears forced to scavenge around human settlements for scraps of food instead of hunting on the ice packs that were so plentiful once upon a time.
All these things I didn't cause and can't control add up to a life that's full of misery and despair. It's almost not worth living unless something can be done soon to offset the damage from humans and the effects of global climate change.
What can be done about it? I don't know. I'm only a bear and have no rights in human courts. I don't read, I don't write and can't stand up for myself. I can't march in a rally or sign a petition. If I could, believe me I would.
Since I can't do any of of these things myself, would you do it for me?
Won't you at least sign a petition to let authorities like the government of Canada know that you care about me and want something done about my situation as soon as possible?
If you help me, you'll be helping lots of other Arctic animals too since they're feeling the same effects. If something isn't done now, humans will eventually also face the devastation that global climate change causes.
No one can stop climate change but something needs to be done to reduce the impact and lessen the misery it causes.
Be my voice. Sign the petition.Read more!
Posted by Steve Bralovich at 12:51 PM
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Polar bears and pollution is a subject that has not been written about as widely as the effects of global climate change but added together they represent a potentially fatal blow to the Polar bear population.
Most of the pollution in the Arctic is transported Northward by the large rivers draining into the Arctic and on wind and ocean currents that bring pollutants from southern latitudes. Polar bears feed on other Arctic marine animals such as seals which easily store fat in their blubber. As a result, a Polar bear carries a concentration of pollutants many times greater than that in the rest of the Arctic Ocean.
PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), a flame retardant found in hard plastic and polyurethane foam, have been detected in every Arctic species tested including fish, seals, Polar bears, beluga whales, pilot whales and birds. Many of these species are on the menu of Polar bears which are at the top of the Arctic food chain.
From water to algae to shrimp to cod to ringed seals to Polar bears — at each step up in the food chain, PBDEs increase five- to tenfold in a process called bio-magnification.continued...
Based on studies in other species, it is reasonable to believe that the concentration of pollutants in Polar bears in some areas are negatively affecting the immune system, hormone regulation, growth patterns, reproduction, and survival rates of Polar bears. Because cubs are being nursed on the fat rich milk of their mothers, they are being exposed to very high pollution levels.
Recent studies in Norway and Canada show that Polar bears' immune cells and antibodies, needed to fight off disease, have been suppressed, and that their levels of testosterone, progesterone, vitamin A and thyroid hormones are altered by PBDEs. The most polluted Polar bears live in NE Greenland, the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea.
A mother Polar bear stores chemicals from a lifetime of exposure in her fat cells. The bodies of Polar bears are very efficient at metabolizing (breaking down) some pollutants but the problem is that many of these metabolites (by products of the break down process) are very active in their bodies before they are excreted. Furthermore, because female Polar bears fast during gestation the amount of pollution that is active in their bodies increases because they are using their fat stores for energy. This is where the pollutants they ingest from other marine animals is naturally stored. Because Polar bear cubs are nursed on fat rich milk, the cubs are exposed to very high pollution levels from their mothers and this is what makes the future of Polar bears questionable. That's borne out by the fact that most Polar bears die before their first birthday. This can be due to natural causes of course but pollution has increased their mortality rate significantly.
Aother major concern with Polar bears as a result of pollution pertains to their reproductive and immune systems. There is evidence that suggests that the hormone system of Polar bears is affected by pollution and this may interfere with reproduction and growth and a weakened immune system may mean that these Polar bears are more susceptible to succumbing to disease or parasites.
Given that no Polar bear in the world is free from pollution, there is a great cause for concern. Although some pollutants such as PCBs have had their levels dramtically reduced, there is still a lot of work to be done by governments to totally erase the negative impact that human pollution has on Polar bears.Read more!
Posted by Steve Bralovich at 11:40 AM