Here at WildLife Foundation, a key date in our calendar is Polar Bear Week: our partners’ Polar Bears International’s annual event which raises awareness for the plight of Polar Bears and their habitat.
This year, Polar Bear week is even more pertinent as it coincides with COP26, as the world works together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Indeed, Polar Bear Week coincides with polar bear migration to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to wait for the sea ice to return so they can hunt their seal prey. This wait is three to four weeks longer than it was a few decades ago, straining the limits of the bears’ fat reserves. The cause of this melting sea ice? Climate change. This week, we consider our role in combatting climate change, particularly through our Polar Bear-focused projects, reflecting the goals of COP26.
One of the key focuses for COP 26 is adaptation: as a global community, we must adapt to protect communities and natural habitats affected by climate change. COP26 says: “We know that the most vulnerable are at the greatest risk from climate change, and that they have done the least to cause it. Action to address this and build resilience is needed now […] The international community must unite and support people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the changing climate.”
But what does this mean in practice? A great illustration is Polar Bears International’s “Polar Bear Safety Colouring Book” project, on which we worked with the charity in 2020.
The focus of the project was inhabitants of Polar Bear range states, for whom the effect of climate change was an increase of Polar Bears in their communities. Indeed, as sea ice melts, the bears are forced to spend more time inland. This leads to increased conflict with humans, as Polar Bears that enter communities tend to be hungry and looking for food, and have been known to cause property damage and even harm to humans.
Understandably, communities are increasingly concerned about protecting themselves and their children, so providing them with safety resources, especially those tailored towards young people, is extremely important. As such, Polar Bears International produced their Polar Bear Safety Colouring Book, which combined facts about Polar Bear biology with key information to keep children safe when living and playing on the land they share with polar bears.
This was initially rolled out in the Province of Manitoba, before funding provided by WildLife Foundation allowed them to produce a version for Greenland in both Greenlandic and Danish, and to start producing a version in Russian, too.
Whilst ongoing communication with communities will show how effective the colouring books have been, local support in editing the book has provided an initial indicator of success. There has also been broad interest in the book on an international level, raising awareness around the impacts of climate change impacts on northern people and polar bears.
As human-polar bear conflict is reduced, we can ensure that the declining polar bear populations are kept safe whilst we work to protect their habitat.
This project shows the ways in which we can help communities to adapt in the face of the effects of climate change – which are often not obviously linked to climate change itself. A lot of the time , efforts such as this one also protect animals that are affected by climate change – as is the case here.
Projects like this work in tandem with additional efforts targeting the effects of climate change. Find out more about Polar Bears International and the work they do to combat climate change and advocate for Polar Bears and their arctic home. Find out more about our work with Polar Bears International here.