Polar bears are forced to take longer swims as the sea ice melts, which can prove to be both a tiring and a dangerous task. While we have all been aware for a long time of the terrible consequences of global warming, now it has become clear that as the natural habitat of polar bears is disappearing, so will they one day.
The Arctic sea ice is currently melting because of the greenhouse gas emissions, a process determined by global warming. In these conditions, the beloved white bears have to take long swims to find habitable ice, which puts their lives in danger. Because of their vulnerability to climate change, polar bears have become the symbol for fighting global warming.
According to a report from the US Geological Survey, two-thirds of the entire population of polar bears will be gone by the year 2050. Because of this grim prediction, one hundred such bears are currently being tracked with the use of GPS collars on the coasts of both Canada and Alaska. The results published in the Ecology journal of the study following these animals have found that they made no less than 115 swims longer than 31 miles.
As author of the study and researcher from the University of Alberta Andrew Derocher has pointed out,
“Ice is changing so quickly that we’re finding the bears are getting caught in places where they’re finally coming to the realization, ‘I just can’t stay here.’ These kinds of long-distance swims are not what they evolved to undergo.”
While polar bears are excellent swimmers, they only have the capacity of traveling at two kilometers per hour. Unusually long journeys can make them lose weight, and their cubs become prone to hypothermia in the cold waters of the north.
The record of the study was made by a female bear in 2009, when she swam for 250 miles, for nine whole days without resting or eating. However, the females with cubs do tend to protect their youngsters and thus end up walking for miles and miles.
As a result, numerous polar bears ended up adapting and thus hunting on land when the sea ice in thin in summer. Several efforts for saving the bears are currently underway, such as the Polar Bear Recovery plan of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
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