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Polar Bear

SAVE THEM ALL: Today’s Endangered All-Star, the Polar Bear, is taking fire from all sides, its continued existence threatened by global warming and loss of sea ice. Now comes news that pollution, too, is a factor, with publication of an Environment International review of research spanning the last decade that suggests that industrial chemicals, including mercury and organochlorides, accumulate in the fat of the seals that make up the majority of the polar bear diet and are then passed to the bears. Conducted by veterinary specialist and polar bear expert Dr Christian Sonne, of the Department of Arctic Environment at Aarhus University in Denmark, the review concludes that such contaminants may adversely impact the bears’ ability to hunt and reproduce, affecting multiple organ systems and leaving the animals increasingly vulnerable to stress and disease. Global warming will only exacerbate those environmental insults: Prolonged periods of fasting, which are becoming more common for the bears, will concentrate pollutants in their bodies. Meanwhile, Alaska and hunters’ groups continue to attack the current listing of the polar bear as ‘threatened,’ with the state suing to overturn even that modest protective effort.
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