The Polar Bears International organisation established International Polar Bear Day on 27 February in order to attract public attention to the animal’s conservation.
Man has been actively advancing on the Arctic in the past few years by way of research and economic exploration of the coast and the shelf. People are settling on the polar bear’s land, next to its home, but they lack basic knowledge about how to behave when they encounter the animal.
Predator, not the cute Umka cub
Polar bears are often associated with cute and friendly Umka, the cub from the famous cartoon. Unfortunately, people sometimes do not quite realise that the polar bear is not a cartoon character but a dangerous predator.
They feed the bear, with kind intentions, and let it approach their homes. The animal begins to understand that people are not dangerous and may even become aggressive and attack them in accordance with the laws of nature.
This is how “good intentions” of feeding the hungry animal may lead to a tragedy, as there will always be a suffering side.
Hunters after a hunter
There are about 26,000 polar bears in the world now. Global climate change and the shrinking ice surface in the Arctic seas are causing substantial damage to the global polar bear population by reducing the Arctic predator’s food resources.
“In Russia, the polar bear is an endangered species; its hunting has been banned since 1957,” said Viktor Nikiforov, an expert on polar bear conservation. “However, thousands of polar bears are killed every year in the rest of the world: hunting the rare animal is officially allowed in Canada, the US (Alaska), Greenland, and poaching still happens on Russia’s Arctic coast.”
International Polar Bear Day is primarily important for the five Arctic nations where the polar bear resides: Russia, Norway, Canada, Denmark (Greenland) and the US.
Seven facts you did not know about polar bears
1. Polar bears are the largest warm-blooded predator on the planet. They can weigh thousands of kilograms and measure up to three metres long.
2. Polar bears can reach a speed of 40 kmph on land, though not for long as they risk getting overheated.
3. Polar bears have a very sharp sense of smell. They can smell their prey from a distance of several kilometres.
4. Polar bears are excellent swimmers. They can swim over 60 miles without stopping to rest.
5. Although their fur looks white, it is actually colorless and hollow. Polar bears appear white because the uneven internal surface of the fur hair splits up light and reflects it from various angles.
6. Polar bears can put away food equivalent to 10 percent of their weight within an hour.
7. Not all polar bears hibernate; only pregnant females do.
(Photo © Viktor Nikiforov)