Canada's delayed polar bear migration, live on the web
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 03:03
Nov. 16 - A team of conservationists are streaming live video coverage of Canada's annual polar bear migration to raise awareness of the bears' vulnerability to climate change. Transmitting images from what they call ''tundra buggies'' near Churchill, Manitoba, the team says there's evidence that higher-than-average temperatures are affecting the bears' ability to hunt on the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Rob Muir reports.
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Every year near the small town of Churchill, Manitoba polar bears gather to wait for the Hudson Bay to freeze over. When it's solid underfoot, the bears venture out to gorge themselves on seals to prepare for winter hibernation.
But scientists say that with climate change, the freeze is coming later each year and the bears are having to wait longer to feed. Chief scientist for non-profit group Polar Bears International Dr. Steven Amstrup says the polar bear is vulnerable.
SOUNDBITE (English) DR. STEVEN AMSTRUP - CHIEF CONSERVATION SCIENTIST, POLAR BEARS INTERNATIONAL, SAYING: "Polar bears depend entirely on the sea ice surface to catch their prey and a warmer world has less sea ice. So as the world warms increasingly polar bears have a shorter and short time they can spend out on the ice hunting and unlike any other creature, they're dependent on a habitat that literally melts as the temperature rises".
And Amstrup says temperaturesare rising and that polar bear numbers in the Western Hudson Bay are declining.
DR. STEVEN AMSTRUP INSPECTING BEAR'S TEETH AND SAYING OFF CAMERA: "You know he's not a real young bear. This a bear that actually could be past prime and on his way down."
This year, the bears migration is being tracked not just by scientists but also by philanthropic organisation, Explore.Org. Using what they call tundra buggies as platforms, a production crew is streaming live video images of the bears to their website whenever the light will allow it.
PBI's executive vice-president Krista Wright says the project is a powerful way to inspire people to care about polar bears and the Arctic.
SOUNDBITE (English) KRISTA WRIGHT - EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, POLAR BEARS INTERNATIONAL, SAYING: "People are coming to our website and gathering more information which is really the end-goal. And it's great to look at polar bears on a camera but the end-point for us is for people to care about the polar bear and care about the changes and take action in their communities to make a difference in polar bears and the Arctic."
There are an estimated 20 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide. Dr Amstrup says that while the climate data tells an alarming story, it is not too late to slow the trend.
SOUNDBITE (English) DR. STEVEN AMSTRUP - CHIEF SCIENTIST, CONSERVATION SCIENCE, SAYING: "One of our findings in the paper that we published last year in Nature was that the sea-ice is entirely dependent on temperature riseand that there is not a tipping point in the sea-ice sop, if we get our act together and mitigate greenhouse gas, there is plenty of time to save abundant habitats that'll preserve polar bears into the future."
This year, Manitoba has been unseasonably warm. The ice is slowly forming but the scientists say they are concerned that, like last year, it won't freeze completely until mid-December, nearly a month later than usual....and that the bears may just have to wait.
Rob Muir, Reuters.
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