Tragic Photos Show Polar Bear Cubs Fighting Over Bits Of Discarded Plastic
If ever there was a symbol that we could rally behind to change our impact on the environment, this should be it.
The shots, taken by wildlife photographer Danny Sullivan, show the two young bear cubs battling for ownership of a piece of plastic as they grow hungrier and hungrier waiting for the winter to truly arrive.
During the winter, polar bears spend a lot of time out on the sea ice, hunting seals, and they depend upon it heavily for their livelihood.
No sea ice means no food for the bears, which results in horrific scenes such as this one.
In the series of photographs, the bears scrap over a piece of litter, locked in a tug of war. In another image, one can be seen chewing on a piece of rubbish.
Then, in perhaps the worst picture of the lot, one of the youngsters has managed to get their nose stuck inside a large milk bottle.
These photos, if nothing else, should ram home to us the lasting and damaging effect that we are having on our surroundings, and the surroundings of the animals that share the planet with us.
The 58-year-old photographer said that he took the photos in Katovik, Alaska, earlier this year.
He 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."
He continued: "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?
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"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."
Sullivan, who was helping his wife on a photographic tour, added that he wanted to intervene, but couldn't for his own safety.
He added: "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 momma 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."
Sullivan concluded his tale with the tragic reality of the situation.
He said: "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.
"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."
Featured Image Credit: Media Drum World