By Christa Adams
As we all know, the polar bear is on shaky ground. Or more precisely, rapidly melting ice. The Arctic’s most iconic and recognizable creatures — the largest land carnivores on Earth — have become synonymous with the catastrophic threat posed by climate change.
With webbed feet, white fur and black skin, and fearsome claws, these magnificent creatures have comfortably roamed the frozen tundra for centuries. But now, the warming Arctic and vanishing sea ice is threatening to drive them to extinction. International Polar Bear Day, which happens every February 27, is a day to raise awareness about the plight of polar bears and encourage people to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Read on to learn what you should know — and what you can do.
The history of International Polar Bear Day
In 2011, a group of forward-thinkers came together with a mission to save polar bears and their disappearing habitats. They formed Polar Bears International, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the threats facing polar bears while simultaneously raising awareness about the importance of conserving these majestic beings. Since then, on every February 27, people across the globe assemble to educate themselves and others, encourage individuals and organizations to reduce their carbon footprint and promote conservation efforts.
In addition to climate change, other factors threatening polar bear populations include pollution and habitat destruction, which in turn drives them closer to human populations. Polar Bears International and other organizations raise funds to support research and conservation programs as well as look for ways to reduce conflicts between polar bears and humans.
Facts to know about polar bears
Where They Live: Polar bears are found in the Arctic — from Alaska and Canada to Norway and Russia — where they reside on sea ice. They venture onto land — and potentially in the path of people — when a lack of ice leaves them no other choice.
Defining Characteristics: Insulated from the harsh cold, polar bears are famous for their thick white fur. Their paws, which resemble snowshoes, help them swim as well as traverse snow and ice.
Diet: Polar bears primarily feed on seals, although they will also consume anything else they catch — from walruses to birds.
Reproduction Rates: Polar bears are especially endangered because they have a slow reproduction rate. A female will usually give birth to just one or two cubs every few years.
Why They Are Under Threat: As the Arctic warms, the sea ice the bears rely on melts. This limits the amount of time they can hunt since their chief food source is seal. Not only do they face starvation, but many drown as they are forced to swim longer distances to find food. These conditions — along with their low reproductive rate — is why the species faces such a dire future.
Why saving the polar bear is important
Polar bears have become symbols of a delicate and changing ecosystem. And their fate is in the hands of the public, governments, and corporations on a global scale. These bears play a crucial role in the Arctic ecosystem. Polar bears are apex predators — the largest bears in the world — and their role is vital to maintain the balance of their ecosystem. Their presence helps to regulate the populations of other species, and their hunting behavior influences how well the ecosystem functions. By saving these unique animals, we are ensuring the survival of not just one species, but the Arctic itself.
How the fate of polar bears impacts humans
If polar bears continue to be endangered — or go extinct altogether — this could lead to a ripple effect that threatens the human food supply and commercial fishing industries. This is why the fate of polar bears should matter to us. By saving these creatures, we are not just protecting one species, but ensuring the stability of our own future. So, if you’re looking for a compelling reason to save the polar bears, look no further than those around you. Our own survival is intertwined with theirs. Additionally, the Arctic is key to the planet’s temperature. It absorbs heat from the sun and helps regulate the Earth’s climate by reflecting sunlight. The more its ice disappears, the hotter the planet gets.
How to get involved in International Polar Bear Day
To celebrate International Polar Bear Day, you can begin by educating yourself about the challenges facing polar bears and their habitats — you’re already halfway there by reading this article so, good job! — and take steps to reduce your carbon footprint and limit your environmental impact.
There are so many ways to embrace sustainability. Turn your AC off when it’s unnecessary, take shorter showers, use reusable shopping bags, and choose eco-friendly products over harmful or plastic-wrapped ones. Read this blog on sustainable living tips that will lower your impact and save you money, too.
Looking for other ways to get involved in International Polar Bear Days? You can donate to organizations that support polar bear conservations, participate in local or online events hosted by Polar Bears International and activities that raise awareness or take some time to educate others. Check out Polar Bears International’s Survive to 5 Challenge to fundraise for polar bear conservation and help give cubs a fighting chance in the Arctic.
International Polar Bear Day serves as a reminder of the crucial role that polar bears play in the Arctic ecosystem and the importance of preserving their habitats. Raising awareness can help ensure the survival of these awesome creatures and preserve the delicate balance of the Arctic.
From reducing our carbon footprint to supporting conservation efforts, there are many ways we can each play a role. By working together, we can help protect polar bears and their habitats for future generations and maintain the fragile Arctic ecosystem that has been disrupted by climate change. Find other ways to get involved here.