By Alastair Harris
The largest of the bears a large white polar bear is a site to behold. A polar bear will sit for hours above a seal's blow hole waiting for a sign of a seal at which point it will use its huge weight to smash through the ice to catch, kill and eat a seal.
Polar bears are also known for swimming huge distances between ice berges and ice packs. The problem with the great melt in the arctic circle it that these distances are know becoming even too great for the once mightly polar bear.
Many would say the only solution to preventing the polar bear from extinction is to breed them in captivity in zoos and the like. Whilst polars bear will live in zoos this poses many problems. Use to ranging over such a large area polar bears are quickly bored being locked up in a small enclosure. There are numerous examples of bears going quite mad in zoos.
I remember one in Auckland zoo that spent most of the day pacing back and forth like a prisoner. Zoos and theme parks have improved the way they look after their polar bears including packing their food in ice (to make them work for it), hiding food in different ways to give the bears something to do.
They also include more 'toys' to keep the bears busy. But even if this is better for the bears mental health genetically you need a population of at least 5000 bears with a highly skilled breeding program to ensure the health of the species.
Perhaps a radical solution would be to move some polar bears to the antarctic. The south pole is not going to melt anytime soon (but give mankind time to stuff it up). The polar bears would have plenty of prey - penguins, seals, birds, etc. Of course the huge risk of introducing a new species to this environment is the destruction of other species.
Whilst seals would be fine giving that polar bears haven't over hunted them up north penguins might be a different story - especially ones like the emporers that collect in huge groups to brood - a sitting 'duck' for a hungry polar bear.
Perhaps a solution would be to tried them on some islands near the antarctic first and see how they went and whether other species could adapt to having a new predator.
Whatever the solution with the way the arctic is going time is running out for the polar bear (but not for property developers of nice warm arctic real estate!)
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