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Heartbreaking Pictures Show Starving Polar Bears Fighting Over Plastic Rubbish

by : Julia Banim on : 05 Dec 2019 16:59
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A photographer has captured a series of devastating images which illustrate all too well the effect plastic pollution and climate change is having on our planet.

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58-year-old Danny Sullivan from Los Angeles, USA, photographed two polar bear cubs while out in the glorious, snowy landscape of Katovik, Alaska.

It should have been an adorable scene, with the two youngsters enjoying their life out in the wilderness. Instead, what Sullivan captured was nothing short of despair.

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The photographs show the two cubs fighting over a pile of plastic waste, having become increasingly hungry and desperate awaiting the arrival of this winter’s sea ice, which would let them get out on the ice to hunt seals.

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One cub can be seen getting its nose stuck inside a one-gallon milk jug, while another image shows the bear playing tug of war with scraps of litter.

Speaking about the photos, Sullivan said:

The shots were taken in early October, in previous years that whole area would have been five foot under by then. They wouldn’t have had a chance to get to the plastic, it would’ve been buried.

It was a good five degrees warmer than it should have been so the ice was actually starting to form at the end of the month, rather than the start. It shortens the window for the polar bears’ hunting season so it’s sure to have a knock on effect soon enough.

That’s not really the point though – the plastic shouldn’t have been there in the first place. What was a plastic gallon jug doing out here in far-flung Alaska? It just goes to show that what we’re doing is having an effect everywhere.

Plastic floats. This could’ve come from anywhere and now there’s every chance one of these young bears has ingested it.

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Sullivan was of course unable to intervene and remove the plastic from the cubs, as this would have been far too dangerous.

He continued:

I was watching the cubs nurse with their mum when one suddenly went running off, I followed him and so did its brother. Before you know it they’re sitting there playing with the plastic and there’s nothing we can do.

If we tried to stop them then mumma bear is going to have her say, and believe you me, she isn’t going to take any prisoners when it comes to protecting her cubs. We try and clean up when we see trash and plastic but it’s not always possible – you can’t put yourself in jeopardy.

Polar bears love to investigate and explore new things and they usually do that with their mouths – I don’t know whether they swallowed any plastic but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

It’s sad and it’s not the only time we’ve seen litter in the most secluded, beautiful spots that are really in the middle of nowhere.

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Sullivan said:

This is what we’ve done to the planet and although we have the power to change it, hemp-derived bottles and other plastic substitutions aren’t mainstream yet and the corporations aren’t doing enough. We really are on a path to destroy our planet.

I really hope people see these photos and think ‘wow’, we really have to start changing the way we operate. Plastic rubbish has no place anywhere, but certainly not in wildlife hubs in Alaska.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Animals, Alaska, Climate, Climate Change, climate crisis, Plastic, Polar Bears, Pollution