9/17/2012 7:02:45 PM

Starving Female Polar Bear

NBC News recently aired a video of a starving female polar bear so desperate for food for herself and her cub that she attacked a male polar bear, trying to steal his seal kill.

Watching the video is heartbreaking and underscores the fact that diminishing sea ice translates directly into less food for polar bears—which means more bears will be starving.

"For every at-risk bear in a place where it could be observed by people, there are dozens or hundreds out in the wilderness and out of sight—but still starving," says our chief scientist, Dr. Steve Amstrup. "Increasingly we will be hearing those screams. Although it might be possible to feed a handful of polar bears that happen to show up where we can see them, we cannot feed whole populations." 

Amstrup says that images like these provide strong signals about what we are doing to the world. "Painful as they are, I hope they'll provide incentive for people to take global warming seriously," he says.

He explains that when scientists talk about lowered survival rates in polar bears what that means isn't an abstract concept: it means more polar bears are starving.

"Lower survival rates have long been occurring in some areas of the polar bear's range and are projected in all areas. But few have been paying attention. This reminds me of the old question: When a tree falls in the wilderness, does it make a sound? The answer must be no, because although polar bears have been starving to death in the wilderness for a long time, we seem to hear the screams only of those few that appear in areas where we can see them. 

"The only way to head off more of these stories and images, and the only way to solve the problem is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and, tragically, the longer we delay taking action, the more and more of these kinds of events will be occurring."  

Visit our Take Action! page to find out how you can get involved.

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