Heartbreaking Video of Starving Polar Bear Illustrates Devastating Effects of Global Warming

Heartbreaking Video of Starving Polar Bear Illustrates Devastating Effects of Global Warming

New footage has emerged of a starving polar bear surrounded by dry land. The heartbreaking video, picked up by National Geographic, sees the malnourished animal struggling to walk as it searches for food.

Biologist-turned-wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen posted the video to his Instagram account on December 5. The clip was recorded after he and a series of filmmakers from the conservation group Sea Legacy arrived in the Baffin Islands during summer, and came across the devastating sight.

Growing up in Canada’s far north, Nicklen has seen thousands of bears in the wild. But this particular scene was easily one of the most distressing. "We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks," he said. The animal appears gravely thin, its muscles limp. After unsuccessfully searching through a trashcan for something to eat, the polar bear collapses back to the ground.

My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death. When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner. There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear. The simple truth is this—if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment. But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth—our home—first. Please join us at @sea_legacy as we search for and implement solutions for the oceans and the animals that rely on them—including us humans. Thank you your support in keeping my @sea_legacy team in the field. With @CristinaMittermeier #turningthetide with @Sea_Legacy #bethechange #nature #naturelovers This video is exclusively managed by Caters News. To license or use in a commercial player please contact info@catersnews.com or call +44 121 616 1100 / +1 646 380 1615”

A post shared by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

Naturally, apprehensive members of the Internet have been asking why Nicklen did not intervene. "Of course, that crossed my mind," he commented. "But it's not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat." Not to mention it’s also illegal to feeding wild polar bears in Canada. Of his choice to film the bear, he says he didn’t wish for it to die in vain.

"When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death,” he added. Nicklen hopes the footage will serve as a warning about the consequences of global warming.

See more of Nicklen's work at his Instagram.

Lead image by Jay Mantri.

[via National Geographic]

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62 Comments

Yes, this is heart breaking but what I fine even more sad are the amount of people who don't want to see or better yet act as if its something done in Hollywood. Very uneducated group and some are educated so they say. lets hope the light goes on ASAP.

Kenneth Jordan's picture

Sad indeed and a ever growing story that needs to be seen!

William Howell's picture

“Global Hotnesss,” yeah, I don’t think I’ll be believing in that anytime soon!

But, but, all those scientists said global warming was real and I heard people from Hollywood say it was true too.

William Howell's picture

Dude, I busted out laughing reading you comment!
Good one!

It's the beauty of facts and science. It's still true even if you don't believe in it.

William Howell's picture

I know, right.

I'm not sure how old you are but I've lived long enough to have lost count how many times I've heard, 'Scientists used to think abc but now believe xyz'. :-/

Anonymous's picture

That's the scientific method in practice, isn't it?

Yes. My point being that while facts don't change, conclusions often do. Climate change, as a principle, is a fact. Assigning specific phenomena to it (the bear's fate in this article), or deciding it's current or future effects, are conclusions.

Anonymous's picture

Yes, a valid distinction.

I would instead say "conclusions" that could end up being fact, or not. Without enough information, such as with that video, one simply doesn't know. It would be refreshing to hear more scientists and doctors say we are not going to do something because we simply don't have enough information.

Sure, but in the meantime they are often sure of themselves and will rarely admit they could be wrong at the time. That's a very dangerous attitude in the medical field, for example.

Edit: Reminds me of the scientific heresy scene from The Planet of the Apes. Eyes closed and fingers in ears.

The original "See no evil, hear no evil,..." is part of a series of carvings, depicting a story. You can see it at the Toshogu shrine in Nikko. If ever in Japan, it's a definite must see! Make sure to climb the stairs to Tokugawa Ieyasu's grave while you're there. It's a long, tiring climb but worth it from a historical POV.

The only Asian country I've been interested in visiting.

My Japanese wife would agree with you. :-) I've been many times and will go many more.

Michael Holst's picture

The most ironic comment you've ever made.

Stick to the message Michael, because now you are also trolling.

Lobotomies used to be sound science. Now they've moved on to anti-depressants. I wonder how much longer that one will last?

Yeah. I think I was the last patient before the switch! :-/

Yikes! I hope you're joking, and I hope you didn't make the switch.

:-) The only thing that depresses me is when I say something in jest and the audience doesn't get it. :-D

Maybe if you had used one of those faces instead of :-/

I thought about it. Sometimes, I like people to think, "Is he kidding or not?" ;-)

Anonymous's picture

It all makes so much sense now!

Yes, becuase scientist are capable of changing their opinion when confronted by facts.

They have been finding facts that correlate to global warming for decades now. They are pretty fucking sure.

Only ignorants fools claim objectivity when really they are too stubborn to accept that they were wrong when confronted by a mountain of evidence.

All I can do is shake my head when I read a story like this. I’ll just leave it at that.

heart wrenching and a foreboding

Ken Flanagan's picture

Out of all the things that could be causing that bears suffering, we choose global warming? It honestly seems like a pretty far stretch to make that assumption. I’m a fairly reasonable person, so I don’t count anything out, but it seems irresponsible to me that we label an issue from a photograph. Just a thought.

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