Polar bears are the charismatic icon of the Arctic and the largest living carnivores on Earth, measuring 2.5m long and weighing up to 680kg! They survive in one of the harshest environments on Earth by having thick fur and a layer of fat called blubber that protects their bodies from the icy water and freezing air. Did you know that a polar bear’s fur isn’t actually white? Their fur is transparent with a hollow core which reflects light and helps them blend in with their surroundings (especially useful when hunting). Underneath their water-repellent coats, polar bears have black skin which helps them to soak up the sun’s rays to keep warm. They are excellent swimmers and can swim around 10km/hour (six miles/hour) using their slightly webbed paws like paddles in the water and holding their hind legs flat like a rudder. Sadly, these amazing bears are under threat from climate change. Rising temperatures means that sea ice is melting earlier and forming later each year, leaving polar bears less time to hunt for food. The survival and protection of the polar bear and their habitat is critical.
Photo: Debra Garside