Polar Bears Are in Peril

The latest charismatic megafauna on the chopping block of the modern age is the polar bear. Despite the work of dedicated conservationists, polar-bear populations are declining and experts worry they may disappear entirely within decades. The problems are manifold. For one, toxic chemicals from industrial countries tend to settle in the sea, get eaten by algae, and travel up the food chain to seals — and polar bears “gob seals like M and Ms,” said Kit Kovacs, head of biodiversity research at the Norwegian Polar Institute. The bears store the nasty chemicals in fat as they hibernate, and then pass them to their children in high doses through milk. Every time a chemical is banned (say, DDT), another one makes its way to the Arctic (say, flame retardants). Add to that the fact that the ice the bears live on is melting thanks to global climate change; if they are driven off the ice and onto land, said Kovacs, “that would be the end of the polar bear as such.”