On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear
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Polar bears—fierce and majestic—have captivated us for centuries. Feared by explorers, revered by the Inuit, and beloved by zoo goers everywhere, they are a symbol for the harsh beauty and muscular grace of the Arctic. But as global warming threatens the ice caps’ integrity, the polar bear has also come to symbolize the environmental peril that has arisen due to harmful human practices. In the past twenty years alone, the world population of polar bears has shrunk by half. Today they number just 22,000.
Urgent and stirring, On Thin Ice is both a celebration and a rallying cry on behalf of one of earth’s greatest natural treasures.
Sigmar Gabriel used the (then) cute little bear to symbolize global warming, five-month-old Flocke’s celebrity was being parlayed into an environmental message. In time, of course, Flocke will also become “yesterday,” and, like Knut, will outgrow the “cute” phase and become just another big white bear in a zoo. Another cub was born in Stuttgart’s Wilhelma Zoo in December 2007, and was brought out of the den in February 2008 by his mother, Corinna. She showed no signs of abandoning her male cub,
isolation, and Siegfried and Roy’s show was canceled indefinitely. * This account is drawn from several Web sites, including those put up by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States), and AWI (the Animal Welfare Institute), in addition to many contemporaneous newspaper articles. I have woven together details from these accounts to make a coherent story, but there is no way of confirming every date, fact, or quote. * We have no way of
blubber, and kept it burning for several days, in the hope that the bears would be attracted by the smell. “The ruse worked well, for in all, about twenty bears were sighted from the crow’s nest during the next few days”—and their sport was assured. Here is one account as Nansen tells it: We soon caught sight of the animal and made our way towards it. The ice was rough and difficult to traverse; so we had to take our time and advance in a very roundabout way. At length we mounted a tall hummock,
nothing else to do—during the breeding season adult males sometimes fight in earnest. In a more intense version of ritualized play-fighting, the adult males are trying to win, or least drive their opponent away from a female, who is usually standing by quietly. During the bout, they rise up on their hind legs like furry sumo wrestlers, and using all the weapons at their disposal, they punch, bite, claw, and try to bowl their opponent over. They rarely fight to the death; evenly matched bears will
westward-drifting ship, which was eventually crushed. Most of the crew survived while Stefansson and his party drifted on ice floes, living among the Inuit and exploring northern Canada, eventually returning in 1918. He wrote up his adventures in several books, including My Life with the Eskimo; The Stefansson-Anderson Expedition, 1909–1912; and Hunters of the Great North. To survive in the Arctic, Stefansson learned to live like an Eskimo. Although he hated fish, he lived on nothing but fish