Monday, March 21, 2011

Polar Bears

Germany was in stunned mourning after the sudden and premature death of Knut, Berlin's world-famous polar bear, at the end of what animal welfare groups said was an unhappy, short life.

''Everyone is just in shock here,'' said Claudia Bienek, a spokeswoman for Berlin Zoo, where Knut shot to global fame in 2007 as a photogenic snow-white cub after being rejected by his mother and reared by hand.

Knut was pulled dead from a pool in the enclosure he shared with three females on Saturday afternoon. He was just four years and three months old, well below the average life expectancy for polar bears of about 35.

News Report, Sydney Morning Herald 21.03.2011
Some facts about polar bears:

• They are the world’s largest land based predators.

• They are both marine and land mammals because they spend most of their time on the ice and in the ocean.

• Polar bears travel from tundra to fast ice and pack ice in search of food like ringed, bearded and sometimes harp seals, as well as an occasional whale calf.

• Polar bears hunt seals by waiting patiently at seal breathing holes in the ice. When a seal comes up to breathe, the bear scoops it out with its paw.

• When food is plentiful, polar bears eat just the fat and skin and leave the rest of the meal for other Arctic carnivores and scavengers, like the foxes, birds and young bears. This lower protein diet, where the bear leaves behind the muscle and organs, results in the bear producing less urea, which means they don’t need to eat as much snow for water in the winter if they eat more blubber and less lean meat.

• The skin of polar bears is black. This allows them to seek up heat from the sun.

• A polar bear's coat is about 2.5 to 5 cm thick. A dense, woolly, insulating layer of underhair is covered by a relatively thin layer of stiff, shiny, clear guard hairs.

• Polar bear fur is oily and water repellent. The hairs don't mat when wet, allowing the polar bears to easily shake free of water and any ice that may form after swimming. Ice forms when the wet fur is exposed to air temperatures at or below freezing.

• The hairs reflect light, giving a polar bear its white colouration. Oxidation from the sun, or staining, can make the hairs look yellow or brown. In zoos, polar bears have been known to turn green due to colonies of algae growing in their hollow hair shafts.

• Worldwide population estimates have increased over the past 50 years and are relatively stable today. Current estimates put the global population at between 20,000 and 25,000. Controls on harvesting have allowed this previously overhunted species to recover.

• Controversially, on 14 May 2008 the U.S. Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, citing the melting of Arctic sea ice as the primary threat to the polar bear.

Still, why would you want to do this?...

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