The ruggedly beautiful polar bear is the Arctic’s most powerful hunter, and at nearly 3m in length and up to 800kg in weight, the biggest species of bear in the world. International wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation is working to protect these animals and their habitat in Hudson Bay, on Canada’s Arctic coast.
Hudson Bay in northeast Canada is the second-biggest bay in the world (after the Bay of Bengal). In the autumn, polar bears wait on the shoreline for the salt water to freeze, then go onto the ice and catch seals. The seals provide them with a rich store of fat. This is vital – polar bears rely on this in the warmer months when they can’t hunt, and pregnant females give birth in a snow den, where they remain for three months, living off their fat. Global warming is a massive problem and polar bears’ greatest threat. Higher temperatures mean this freeze happens later every year, which has a deadly impact. Polar bears have less time to hunt for food, so they lose condition and struggle to survive – tragically numbers are decreasing.
Polar bear research
Conservation is essential and Born Free is working to help ensure the future of this symbol of the Arctic. The charity supports an important project with York University in Toronto, Canada. Scientist Dr Gregory Thiemann is studying polar bears in southern Hudson Bay, the most southerly population of polar bears in the world. These vulnerable bears are under threat and Dr Thiemann is finding out more about their behaviour, where they are distributed, what they eat, what their body condition is and what we need to do to protect them.
To do this some of the bears have satellite collars to enable the team to track them. Much of the land the bears travel over is inhospitable to people, access is perilous and temperatures are sub-zero. The special collars send signals to a passing satellite, which are relayed to a computer so the bears can be tracked remotely.
Meanwhile, in the confines of captivity, far-ranging polar bears can suffer terribly in zoos.
They can exhibit distressing behaviour patterns – pacing back and forth and repeatedly waving their heads. Born Free exposed their exploitation in British zoos, and campaigns today to end the keeping of all polar bears in captivity.
Please help KQ & the Born Free Foundation to safeguard Africa’s wildlife by placing any loose change in the envelopes provided and handing to a member of the cabin crew. The money received will help us in our fight to ensure a future for Africa’s wildlife. Thank you! www.bornfree.org.uk/about-us/born-free-kenya/