Polar Bears As An Indicator Species

I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by polar bears.

I can remember seeing one up close for the first time at the Omaha Zoo. (seriously one of the best!)

My son & I were there and right up close. Which basically means we were standing at the glass that looks into the water pool that is a part of the polar bear habitat.

We were lucky enough to accidentally walk up right when they were feeding this gorgeous creature. They threw in a few small snacks & the polar bear was unmoved by the idea of it all.

Then. They threw a watermelon into the water.

That polar bear gracefully dove into the water to fetch the watermelon & swam right by our faces.

I will never forget the slow graceful stroke of the polar bear’s giant limbs & air bubbles streaming out of its nose.

Photo by Eva Blue

I can remember it so vividly. I was completely caught up in that moment.

Still am, actually.

Animals are truly magnificent.

However. With my love for polar bears comes a great big sadness.

They are ice-dependent animals.

Without ice, these largest land carnivores probably don’t stand a chance.

Without ice, their main source of food (ringed seals) probably doesn’t stand a chance.

Without ice & snow, they don’t have safe places to have their babies.

Without ice & snow, they can’t find each other to mate.

Not only that, but polar bears are actually an indicator species.

That means if THEY aren’t doing too well, then the health of their environment is ALSO not doing too well.

That environment includes things such as fish, marine birds, seals, whales, arctic fox, reindeer, indigenous communities, etc.

Sea ice has been decreasing at 4.6% per decade.

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

That may seem like small potatoes, but a half-assed google search may just change your mind.

It’s much too fast for most species to even have a chance at adapting.

This brings desperate and starving animals & increases in disease.

My stomach & heart ache just thinking about this…

There are only 20,000 – 25,000 polar bears spread out over 19 subpopulations.

Can polar bears survive for 100 more years?

50 more years?

We’re killing off an animal that has no natural predators.

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