BY JOSH SAUNDERS
Heart wrenching footage shows the moment a starving polar bear was forced to eat trash and likely died shortly after.
Paul Nicklen, 49, filmed the soul-crushing encounter that saw the adult male desperately trying to satisfy his hunger by chewing on a snowmobile seat after rummaging through a bin.
SeaLegacy, a non-profit social enterprise was filming for five hours as the emaciated polar bear struggled to find food on Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada.
With no wounds on its body, and not old enough to die of old age, we don’t know exactly what happened to him but he is the face of climate change.
During summer the bears can go for several months without eating while they wait for the Arctic Ice to solidify but because the ice is freezing later and melting earlier, their fasting period is prolonged.
Without ice, there are no seals, the mains source of food for polar bears.
The global population of polar bears is at risk, with a real possibility of extinction within 100 years.
Paul and the team from SeaLegacy described the moment as ‘profoundly heartbreaking’ due to not being able to save the polar bear or put him out of his misery. It’s illegal to interfere with wildlife.
They hope the video will awaken people to the effects of climate change and to take action to save future bears from suffering a similar fate.
Paul Nicklen, co-founder and director of SeaLegacy, said: “We only knew that he wasn’t dead when he began to lift his head.
“We didn’t want to stress him out more than he already was, so we hid behind an abounded hut
“Once we were there, and out of his way, he got up and wandered over to a trash bin, looking for food.
“He was looking for anything he could find, although at this stage, no amount of food would have saved him.
“In this video, he is chewing on the burnt padding from a snowmobile seat.
“This video was one of the hardest things I have ever filmed – we were sobbing, the whole SeaLegacy team. It was impactful and disturbing.
“The first instinct is to help, to save him somehow, but his legs muscles had atrophied beyond repair, and nothing we could have done would have saved his life.
“We didn’t have a dead seal to feed it or any means to put it out of its misery.
“This video is heartbreaking, we have received tens of thousands of comments on how sad, and angry, this makes people.
“People want to know what they can do – we, as a global society, haven’t seen footage like this before, and if we don’t do something, we will see more and more of it.
“This is a foreshadowing of what the future holds for polar bears if we don’t do something, I know that sounds harsh, it is.
“While we can’t help this particular bear, we can help change the fate of hundreds, possibly thousands of other polar bears by healing our oceans, reversing the Earth’s warming to a point where greenhouse gases begin to decline.
“Ways to do this already exist – reforesting the oceans and restarting natural nutrient cycles can drawdown carbon, de-acidify and cool surface waters are the ways we reverse climate change.
SeaLegacy released the video that was shot in July, earlier this week to share the real life impacts of climate change.
They hope that the devastating footage will encourage individuals and global leaders to re-evaluate the damage being done to the environment and seas.
SeaLegacy is running the campaign #TurningTheTide to further this awareness about climate change.
Paul said: “It is profoundly heartbreaking to see that we were too late for this bear, but there are thousands of more bears and other species that need us more now than ever.”
“As individuals, we cannot put an end to the melting of ice in polar regions, or prevent bleaching of coral reefs, or stave off acidification of the world’s oceans.
“We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth — our home — first.
“What we can do is lend your voice and support a movement that focuses on the opportunities to create healthy ad abundant oceans.
“Social movements change how we think and how we see the world. #TurningTheTide is our social movement
“What was once accepted and thought to be normal becomes unthinkable, what was marginalized or uncommon becomes honoured and respected.
“My team at SeaLegacy is dedicated to changing the narrative of the world’s oceans, and the animals that inhabit it – we are #TurningTheTide .”
For more information, visit: www.sealegacy.org