An image of a young polar bear napping on an iceberg is focusing minds on vanishing polar habitats.
The image won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award, hosted by London’s Natural History Museum.
Amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani took the photo during a three-day expedition off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago.
“This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it. Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still time to fix the mess we have caused,” Sarikhani said in a press release.
The image is a vivid illustration of the threat to polar wildlife, which scientists say is a consequence of the climate crisis.
The small iceberg offers only fleeting shelter for the bear — a microcosm of how polar habitats keep shrinking as the world heats up.
The Natural History Museum’s director, Dr Douglas Gurr, called the photo a “visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss”.
It got 75,000 votes, the museum said, a record.
The interest surrounding Sarikhani’s image comes at a critical period for polar bears.
The WWF, says there are 22,000 polar bears left in the wild.
The species is classified as vulnerable – a category less severe than endangered. The WWF said the bears are under pressure from the impact of the climate crisis on the Arctic, which is warming at around twice as fast as the global average.
Although the US has a conservation plan in place, it’s unclear what progress has been made in protecting the species since it was first granted protective status in 2008, according to Dr. Flavio Lehner, chief climate scientist at Polar Bears International.
“The next 15 years will close out what the U.N. defined as the critical decade to act on climate change,” Lehner said in a press release published in May 2023.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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