Don’t Feed the (Polar) Bears-Or Do Feed Them?
Editor’s note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion. He heads the section’s Change the List project, which focuses on human rights and social justice. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com or follow him on Twitter (@jdsutter), Facebook or Google+.
(CNN) — Here’s a seriously depressing question:
If a polar bear no longer has ice to stand on and must have his “bear kibble” (that’s a real term; more on it soon) airlifted to the Arctic by helicopter, is he still a polar bear? Or is he some sort of zoo-like experiment — a sad but perhaps unavoidable consequence of an era of melting ice and warming climates?
I posed a less-wordy version of that question to Andrew Derocher, a biologist and polar bear expert at the University of Alberta. He recently published a paper outlining several emergency actions that likely will have to be taken soon to save the Arctic bears.
Among Derocher’s scenarios is using helicopters to airdrop food on polar bears as their icy habitat continues to melt — at a cost of $32,000 per day for the “most accessible” bears. (The hope is that such interventions would last days per year, not months).
“It’s a lot better to have some animals in the wild even if they are being supplemented in their food. If we were basically the sole food source for these animals, then we’re going to have some very serious issues. Then it won’t really be a polar bear anymore,” Derocher said on the phone. “It will be a semi-wild, semi-captive, free-ranging carnivore. And it probably wouldn’t do that well even if the ice started to come back” since the bear would become so dependent on the airlifted food that he may forget how to hunt.
(Sigh). It’s really come to this.