Viral footage captured by National Geographic of a skeletal polar bear scavenging for food in a barren landscape is breaking the hearts of social media, and speculated as a stark reality in climate change.
In the clip recorded by SeaLegacy filmmakers on Somerset Island, near Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada, the emaciated bear’s bones are visible through its yellow fur as he struggles to search for food.
My heart breaks when I see this photo. We cried as we filmed this dying bear. This is the face of climate change. A polar bear struggles to stand in his final days on the planet. We traveled to the Arctic with @sea_legacy in August and saw both healthy bears and starving bears. As climate change accelerates, we will see less of the former and more of the latter. It’s a heartbreaking reality of our current lifestyle. Please join us at @sea_legacy where we are #turningthetide for the oceans and climate change. Each and every one of us must act now. No one will fix this for us. @todayshow
While in conversation with the CBC, SeaLegacy’s co-founder Cristina Mittermeier said when the bear first got up, her team discovered it was in the late stages of starvation.
“It was incredibly shocking,” she said.
In the video, the bear can be seen making its way to a trash bin tp pull out its meal, which Mittermeier discloses “looked like a piece of the seat from a snowmobile.”
“That’s what it was eating — this foam that was burned and charred and absolutely not edible,” she said.
The scene was so emotional for the videographers, who are not allowed to intervene, that they could only think of one thing to do to help create a conversation through impact.
“All of our team was in tears and feeling completely helpless to do anything about it except to roll our cameras and share it with the world,” she said.
It is known that polar bears rely on sea ice to access their main food sources, such as seal and walrus.
While the film team has shot footage in the past, it is well known that winters are now shrinking in the Arctic, causing sea ice to melt before mammals, like bears, can gather enough food to last them as they hibernate.
“We hear from scientists that in the next 100 to 150 years, we’re going to lose polar bears,” Mittermeier said. “We wanted the world to see what starvation of a majestic animal like this looks like.”
Social media reacted to the footage, equally heartbroken.
We an stop behaving irresponsibly and stop burning #fossilfuels NOW.— Critterpaparazzi (@Critterpap) December 9, 2017
I just saw this and bawled my eyes out for about 15 minutes. Sadness, but also so much anger.— etoile (@kosmo_naught) December 9, 2017
I'm here with puffy eyes & an extremely sore heart - feeling useless & extremely angry all at once. I want to scream - where are you God?! I'm wondering where we all go from here, how as individuals we do something useful. Animals & nature are so precious - humans so selfish 😪💔— Katie Dutch (@kitscheart) December 9, 2017
As an educator it is our job to prepare young people to make the world better. This video needs to be seen.— jonann ellner (@jaellner) December 9, 2017
I keep thinking of that polar bear and crying 😭— Alice Taylor (@wonderlandblog) December 9, 2017
According to the World Wildlife, polar bears are seen as the poster child of the impacts of climate change. Their dependence on sea ice makes them highly vulnerable to an evolving climate.
Photo credit: Twitter / @redskitownphotos