Cannibalism amid polar bears on the rise
Ice levels have fallen due to rising temperatures, and industrial companies are moving into the habitat of polar bears — forcing them to move out of their normal hunting grounds and into areas with scarce resources.
However, the Russian researcher behind the discovery believes that the rise in cannibalism incidents could also be a result of increased human activity in the Arctic (who are witness to the grim development).
"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," said the Russian researcher, Mordvintsev, to Interfax news agency, according to AFP. "We state that cannibalism in polar bears is increasing."
Polar bears eat their mates and babies to survive
Increasing food scarcity is likely a result of climate change, which has decreased ice levels in the Arctic by 40% in the last 25 years, Daily Mail reports.
Mordvintsev thinks polar bears are turning to cannibalism because there's simply nothing left to eat, which is why large males are attacking females and cubs, while mothers, likewise, are eating their babies.
In times of abundance, polar bears use sea ice to hunt seals swimming in Arctic waters, but bereft of ice to stand on, they are forced onto the shore — where there is less to eat, excepting their own kind.
The high price of fossil fuel extraction
Polar bears used to hunt the area that spans from the Gulf of Ob to the Barents Sea, but busy ship routes carrying liquified natural gas are forcing the animals away, said Mordvintsev.
"The Gulf of Ob was always a hunting ground for the polar bear. Now it has broken ice all year round," he said, attributing the environmental change to active gas extraction sites along the Yamal peninsula, which borders the Gulf of Ob. He also blames the launch of an Arctic LNG plant.
Called caching, cannibalistic behavior is relatively common amid other species of bear, especially brown bears, which are the closest evolutionary relation to polar bears, diverging roughly 500,000 years ago.
As the fossil fuel industry continues its thrust into areas previously untouched by civilization, polar bears will edge closer to extinction, along with more species who depend on the rapidly melting ice sheets of the Arctic area.