National Geographic footage of a starving polar bear searching for food has devastated animal lovers the world over for its tragic depiction of the effects of climate change on the endangered species.
The emaciated polar bear was filmed roaming a rocky landscape in the Canadian territory of the Baffin Islands.
The footage was shared to Twitter on Saturday with the caption: “This is what climate change looks like.”
In a dry habitat with no snow or ice to be seen, the stoic creature can be seen collapsing on its hind legs trying to find food in empty oil drums.
“We stood there crying – filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” said National Geographic’s Paul Nicklen, the photographer who captured the moment.
Mr Nicklen said he decided to share the footage to help viewers understand the real effects of a warming climate.
“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realise what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death. This is what a starving bear looks like,” he said in a Twitter post.
"When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like," says photographer Paul Nicklen pic.twitter.com/foBaqXqOQ4
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) December 9, 2017
Polar bears are suffering as a result of warming temperatures and melting sea ice because they are losing access to the main staple of their diet: seals.
“Starving and running out of energy, they are forced to wander into human settlements for any source of food,” visual narration explained in the clip.
“Feeding polar bears is illegal without finding another source of food. This bear likely only had a few more hours to live.”
Social media users have expressed an outpouring of grief for the animal’s plight.
This video truly one of the most gut-wrenching, devastating things I have ever seen in my life. A polar bear, muscles atrophied, at the end of its life after prolonged starvation. There is no snow, no ice, no food.
This is what climate change looks like. https://t.co/sH9zI9jxTr
— Natasha Daly (@natashaldaly) December 8, 2017
Starving Polar Bear is where I draw the line. We are the worst.
— Amanda Guinzburg (@Guinz) December 9, 2017
Polar bears have been the “poster children” for the impacts of climate change, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The organisation says polar bears have relatively high genetic diversity within their species and can disperse over very long distances, suggesting they may have some capacity to adapt to the ongoing changes in the Arctic region.
“However, their dependence on sea ice makes them highly vulnerable to a changing climate,” the WWF website explained.
“Polar bears rely heavily on sea ice environment for traveling, hunting, mating, resting, and in some areas, maternal dens. In particular, they depend heavily on sea ice-dependent pretty, such as ringed and bearded seals.”
A study by the organisation found the species would be unable to persist under changing climatic changes.