It’s Polar Bear Week, and you can watch the animals on explore.org’s five live-streaming cameras as the bears spar, nap and care for their cubs in Churchill, Manitoba, the Polar Bear Capital of the World.
However, in addition to providing viewers with a fascinating up-close look at polar bears, explore.org, Polar Bears International and Frontiers North Adventures also want to educate people about the plight of this vulnerable species.
This year, Polar Bear Week comes just weeks before the United Nations holds a conference on climate change, one of the greatest threats to these animals and the planet. These graphics from Polar Bear International help explain why ice matters:
Because of climate change, sea ice is freezing later and thawing earlier, which is detrimental to polar bear populations.
The animals depend on the ice so they can hunt ringed seals, their chief source of food. Less available ice means the bears have less time to hunt and store up fat reserves for hibernation.
In Churchill, the planet’s southernmost polar bear population gathers along the Hudson Bay in October and November, waiting for sea ice to form — and they’re having to wait longer and longer.
“The Western Hudson population, home to Churchill’s bears, is now experiencing ice-free seasons that are three to four weeks longer than they were in the 1980s,” Barbara Nielsen, director of communications at Polar Bears International, told The Huffington Post. “As a result, their numbers have dropped by 22 percent compared with the 1980s.”
Polar bears have become a symbol of the effects of climate change; however, not all polar bear populations are declining. Of the 19 populations, three are in decline, one is increasing, six are stable, and the rest have insufficient data for researchers to draw a conclusion on the population’s health.