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Expert: Polar bears extinct within decades

Polar bear with cub on thin ice in the Arctic. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Nikita Ovsyannikov, head of Russia’s Wrangel Island polar bear reserve fears the world’s largest predator could be exterminated within three decades.

Location

Nikita Ovsyannikov is Russia’s most well-known polar bear scientists. Observing the retreat of the ice due to climate changes from his facility on the Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea, he says: “It is worse for Russian polar bears than the bears in Canada or Greenland because the pack ice is retreating much faster in our waters.”

This summer has once again been all-time-low for the Arctic Sea ice in the waters north of Siberia, and between the islands of Svalbard, Franz Josefs Land and Novaya Zemlya in the Barents Sea. The Arctic Sea ice was in late September 18 percent smaller than previous record from 2007.

Polar Bears will according to Ovsyannikov disappear from the wild within the next 20 to 25 years.

“The best habitat is quickly disappearing. It is extreme. What we are seeing right now is very late freezing. Our polar bear population is obviously declining. It used to be that new ice was thick enough for them to walk on in late October. It now will happen much later,” Nikita Ovsyannikov told Edmonton Journal.

He is also concerned that as pack ice continues to melt, increased shipping through the Northern Sea Route will have a greater impact on Arctic wildlife. “It is inevitable that economic development will continue. So it is up to take as many precautions as possible because a shipping accident in the Arctic would be an absolute disaster for the entire ecosystem.”