Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 18:01

At 5 a.m. on November 26, 2014, a joyous event took place at Marineland: for the first time in the history of the park, a polar bear was born.

This birth is of great importance because it is the result of the collective effort of all European wildlife parks to safeguard an endangered species in its natural environment: the polar bear.

In fact, Flocke and Rasputin, the polar bear couple that has been living at Marineland since 2010, were brought together as part of the EEP (European Endangered Species Program), so they could reproduce.

The goal of that program is to preserve the species' original characteristics and genetic heritage for the future.

 

Why is this necessary?

Because polar bears are going extinct in their natural environment. They only live in a single region of the world: the Arctic. And yet, the North Pole is the place on the planet that has been the most affected by the acceleration of climate change. According to scientists, the polar icecap continues to melt from year to year, and the worst-case scenario (total disappearance of first-year sea ice) is expected to come to pass in 2050.

Although polar bears won't die of heat (they are mammals, so they are perfectly capable of regulating their internal temperature), they can still die of hunger.

 

Melting ice

Polar bears are great predators, at the top of the food chain, that rule over their hunting territory: sea ice. Their main source of food is based on special prey: seals, which provide them with all of the nutrients that their metabolism needs. But polar bears don't hunt in the water, unlike other marine mammals. Although they are excellent swimmers, they hunt exclusively on the ice, catching seals as they come to the surface for air. If the sea ice melts, polar bears will lose their hunting grounds and won't be able to feed or reproduce. Their entire living space will disappear.

 

Consequences of the disappearance of sea ice

For several years now, specialists have been observing the impact of the decline in sea ice on polar bears: the animals are drowning and dying, as they throw themselves into endless crossings to try to reach a block of ice that might harbor some seals. The distances between the ice sheets are increasing, and the weakened bears are unable to assess the feat required of them to swim to the next one.

The subadults cannot handle long periods of fasting and so are the first victims of the food shortage.

Bears are being reported in inhabited areas with increasing frequency, which is a very dangerous situation for people, because the bears are not afraid of human beings. As they starve, they are attracted by dumps and trash cans, as sources of food.

Cases of cannibalism are becoming more common.

They are also the victims of pollution: high levels of mercury accumulate in their tissues, causing malformations in their young.

All of these series of causes and effects are getting the better of the species: the survival rate among bear cubs is inexorably dropping.

What does the future hold for polar bears?

The situation is alarming: of the 25,000 polar bears alive today, an estimated 2/3 of their global population will have disappeared by 2050.

 

The weight of economic lobbying against the survival of the species

In 2013, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) refused to raise the protection status for polar bears, by moving the species from Appendix II to Appendix I. The proposal, which was supported by the United States and Russia, was blocked by pressure from special international trade interests, represented by the European Union, Canada and Norway, among others. As a result, polar bears can still be hunted.

Scientists agree that one of the last chances of being able to see living polar bears at the end of the 21st century will be to facilitate their reproduction at wildlife parks. But that's only part of the solution. The global response to these planetary threats is the responsibility of each and every one of us, as citizens of the world. In fact, this is Marineland's most important function: to raise our visitors' awareness to global environmental issues, so that everyone can take action at their own level, for example by signing the petition that we are presenting to you today.

 

What can we do to save the polar bear?

We, the European community of zoos and our visitors, are mobilizing to limit global warming, thanks to the "Pole to Pole" campaign.

Together, we can put a curb on climate change, by limiting the average rise in temperature to 2°C.

We are calling on the world's leaders to take urgent action for the climate, in order to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Some of the greatest thinkers and professionals in the world have signed this petition. Join them and add your voice to theirs to call for urgent action for the climate. This message will be presented to the heads of State from around the world, at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, in December 2015.

The petition is available at: http://www.poletopolecampaign.org/it-is-time-to-act-2-degrees-is-the-limit/

In addition to signing this petition, you can also fight climate change by unplugging your electronic devices when not in use.