A video of a wounded and hungry polar bear, recorded by Paul Nicklen, UVic student and nature photographer at National Geographic, has attracted more than five million online visits.
Nicklen, who studied biology at the University of Victoria, recorded video at the end of August on Somerset Island in Nunavut. It shows the bear, weak and wobbly, his skin and skin hanging loosely over an obviously emaciated frame while looking for food.
Photographer shared the video on his Facebook page on Tuesday, saying that everyone there was "pushing through his tears and emotions while documenting this moribund polar bear."
On Friday, National Geographic shared a version of the video. As of 8:30 p.m., it had been seen more than 5.1 million times.
There were some criticisms, with people asking why nobody tried to help the bear or feed it.
SeaLegacy, a conservation organization that Nicklen works with, noted online that the bear "was on its last legs and its muscles had atrophied beyond repair." It would also have been illegal to feed him, to approach him or to do anything to alleviate his pain. "
In his Facebook post, Nicklen, who lives in Nanoose, said there was no salvation for the bear.
" People He thinks we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed a starving bear. The simple truth is this: if the Earth continues to heat up, we will lose bears and whole polar ecosystems, "he wrote.
" This great male bear was not old, and certainly died a few hours or days from now. But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests and start putting the Earth, our home, first. "
In an interview on Friday, Nicklen said he could not say with certainty why the bear was so weak.
He could, however, say that he was a man, between eight and 10 years old, with a large frame and without obvious signs of injury, apart from its generally weak condition.
"When scientists say: 'Polar bears are going to disappear in the next 100 to 150 years,' people think of the numbers in a fact sheet, "he said from New York.
"All I'm trying to say is: This is what starves it really looks like."
Nicklen grew up on Baffin Island, where his father worked as a mechanic. He studied biology at UVic in the 1980s and learned to dive.
He briefly worked as a biologist before quitting his regular salary to devote himself to full-time wildlife photography. After many years of rejection, he works for National Geographic and specializes in polar environments. He has spent many days photographing and documenting the disappearance of Arctic sea ice.
Nicklen is careful to draw conclusions from his images, and notes that many people seek to make their way in what is said about the disappearance of sea ice. from North.
He and his colleagues recorded the bear video until he noticed and became agitated. They stopped worrying because they could burn too much energy in their last days.
"It did not work or anything and we did not want to accelerate his death process by forcing him to burn calories," he said. . "We just wanted to get out of there."
You can not say with certainty if the bear died.
He said he hopes that people can understand that an entire ecosystem is under threat. Without sea ice, creatures such as polar bears can not access ocean water and seals, their main prey.
"Ice melts every spring and freezes every fall," Nicklen said.
"The bears are designed to last up to two months without ice, but they are not designed to go four or five months without ice."
"Well, this [the video] is what it really looks like when the polar bears are left stranded on land. "