'Climate change cause invasion of polar bears on Nova Zembla'

The Russian archipelago Nova Zembla is suffering this winter from an invasion of polar bears. The problems are a direct result of melting polar ice caused by climate change, causing the animals to drift.


The Russian archipelago Nova Zembla is suffering this winter from an invasion of polar bears. The problems are a direct result of melting polar ice caused by climate change, causing the animals to drift.

The situation on Nova Zembla is now so serious that the authorities issued a state of emergency last Saturday. Russian military personnel have flown in to protect the roughly three thousand residents living on Nova Zembla from the polar bears. The situation is particularly worrying in the Beloesja Goeba settlement.

The problems on Nova Zembla are probably caused by two things, says Gert Polet, expert in the arctic of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) against NU.nl. "Climate change and human waste."

Polar bears prefer to live on sea ice to hunt seals. Because the area with sea ice is shrinking, the polar bears are also migrating northwards in search of better ice. On that trek, the animals also pass through places where people live and that causes conflicts.

"The roaming polar bears now know from experience that there is something to be gained in settlements, for the people who live there it is a tragedy, because the polar bear is the largest predator on land", says Polet.

The hungry polar bears roam around especially at trash cans, because there is a lot of food to be found there. "The animals are very curious, especially on land, where they can not find any other food, they come to this kind of dump spots," he says.

Conflicts between polar bears and people

According to him, the WWF and local governments are already doing a lot to prevent conflicts between polar bears and people. Together they train patrol units, among other things, that teach them how to keep the bears away.

The proper closure of waste plays an important role in this, says Polet. "In several villages we are working on pilots with bearproof waste, we look for all kinds of ways, such as polar bears, and we do a test with electricity around kennels, where sled dogs sit together."

This cooperation has been very successful, especially in eastern Russia, according to Polet, but for some areas this assistance is too late.

50

Dozens of polar bears ravage settlement on Nova Zembla

Constantly six to ten polar bears active in town

For example, Beloesja Goeba has been visited by 52 polar bears since December, according to the local authorities. In the town, six to ten boars would constantly be active, some of which also exhibit aggressive behavior.

"People are afraid to leave their homes and parents dare not let their children go to school," said Zhigansha Musin, head of the local administration on the archipelago, against AFP . "I've been on Nova Zembla since 1983 and have never seen such a massive invasion of polar bears."

Fences have now been placed around childcare for the safety of children. Soldiers have used special vehicles to transport people. They also hold patrols and have dogs with them that have to keep the polar bears at a distance.

The Russian authorities have so far refused to grant permission to shoot the animals. The polar bear is a protected species in Russia and hunting on animals is prohibited. Nature conservation experts hope that the measures will help and that the local population will not grab the gun.

REF: https://www.nu.nl/dieren/5736480/klimaatverandering-oorzaak-invasie-van-ijsberen-op-nova-zembla.html

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