Two-thirds of polar bears
could disappear by 2050

Polar bears will be wiped out by the end of this century unless more is done to tackle climate change. Scientists have been studying polar bears in great depth for decades, desperately seeking advances in understanding, and more importantly, reversing the effects of climate change on this extraordinary species on the brink of extinction. 

Dr. Jon Aars, a polar bear scientist at The Norwegian Polar Institute, has dedicated his life’s work to staging annual polar research expeditions in the Svalbard region. His team studies the impact of rapid habitat changes on Arctic animals, from melting polar ice caps to rising sea levels. Dr. Aars’ and his team have had great success in gathering critical data via satellite-collaring – a common-practice used around the world to track and study animal movements and behavior while mitigating human-animal interactions as much as possible. 

Satellite-collaring initiatives are typically conducted during the spring, coinciding with female polar bears emerging from their dens with their cubs and sea ice solidifying enough to ensure a safe landing. First, to locate the bears, scientists scour the skies by helicopter. Once discovered, researchers tranquilize the animal from the air with a fast-acting sedative. From there, the helicopter lands and the team swiftly gets to work – checking vital signs and extracting blood samples, before outfitting the sedated polar bear with a satellite collar. A “saltwater switch” on the collars activates when the bears drop into the water, allowing researchers to calculate the amount of time they spend swimming. As a final measure, a specialized veterinarian administers a reversing agent to counter the residual sedative. The team remains on sight to ensure the bear is safely up and walking before they make their final take-off. The captured data is invaluable to the team and the survival of the species. 

All Arctic animals rely on sea ice – polar bears to breed and hunt for seals, seals & walruses to raise their young, foxes, whales and caribou to forage for food – meanwhile the Arctic is warming TWICE as fast as the global average.

While some species can adapt to the changing global climate, others are unable to adjust and therefore become extinct. For example, many bird species can change their distribution (the area that a species lives and moves within), however, polar bears are restricted to the Arctic. As these changes become more and more prominent, Dr. Aars’ team continues to work tirelessly towards developing a solution to correct the mistakes of the past. While most of us are not in a position to develop and implement advanced solutions to undo the present damage, we can certainly make conscious changes in our day-to-day lives to minimize our individual carbon footprints and do our part to reduce global warming.

Consuming less energy, generating less waste, driving less, conserving water and eating seasonally are all tangible examples of how each and every one of us can contribute. At The Legacy Untold, we like to remember and remind others that perfection is the enemy of progress, and that even the smallest changes are a great place to start – you don’t have to live off-the-grid and become vegan, but consider using energy-efficient lightbulbs and adopting “Meatless Mondays”.