Cannibalism Among Polar Bears Is On The Rise, Scientist Says
Speaking at a conference in St Petersburg, Ilya Mordvintsev, a senior researcher at Moscow's Severtsov Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution, expressed concern about the changing patterns of behaviour among polar bears.
As quoted by Interfax news agency, Mordintsev said: "Cases of cannibalism among polar bears are a long-established fact, but we're worried that such cases used to be found rarely while now they are recorded quite often."
Mordvintsev added: "We state that cannibalism in polar bears is increasing."
At the presentation, Mordvintsev suggested the changes could be due to several reasons, including lack of food.
"In some seasons there is not enough food and large males attack females with cubs," he said.
Mordvintsev also argued the rise in figures could be partly thanks to increasing numbers of people working in the Arctic and reporting such patterns, adding: "Now we get information not only from scientists but also from the growing number of oil workers and defence ministry employees."
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According to the World Wildlife Fund, polar bears also face threat from the oil and gas industries, which have been turning their eyes to the Arctic.
The WWF website explains: "Contact with oil spills can reduce the insulating effect of a bear's fur requiring them to use more energy to get warm, and can poison them if ingested.
"Polar bears can also be exposed to toxic chemicals such as pesticides through their prey, which can affect a bear's biological functioning and ability to reproduce."
The WWF also says melting sea ice from climate change has increased human-polar bear conflicts as hungry polar bears go searching for food in the summer.
Mordvintsev also explained that this winter, the area from the Gulf of Ob to the Barents Sea - a region where polar bears used to hunt - is now a busy route for ships carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG).
"The Gulf of Ob was always a hunting ground for the polar bear," he said.
"Now it has broken ice all year round," he said.
According to the Guardian, Russia - which is already a key global oil and gas exporter - is keen to develop its LNG potential in the Arctic, having also significantly upgraded its military facilities there.
Featured Image Credit: PA