'Soul-crushing' footage shows starving polar bear searching for food on iceless land

Martin Coulter
Climate change is said to be the single most important threat to polar bear's survival: Pixabay

A “soul-crushing” video of a starving polar bear scrounging for food on iceless land in the Canadian Arctic has gone viral.

The footage, captured by photographer Paul Nicklen, shows the emaciated bear struggling to walk as it rummages through litter. It has been shared more than 21,000 times.

The bear was thought to have died within hours of being filmed.

“This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death,” Nicklen wrote alongside the video on Facebook.

"It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy," he added.

The film-makers said the harrowing footage offered an insight into the impacts of climate change.

“As temperatures rise and sea ice melts, polar bears lose access to the main staple of their diets – seals,” the video noted.

“Starving, and running out of energy, they are forced to wander into human settlements for any source of food.”

The scene was recorded by the conservation group Sea Legacy during a late summer expedition on Baffin Island.

“My entire Sea Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear,” Nicklen wrote on his Facebook page.

Viewers called the footage “gut wrenching” and “heartbreaking”.

One Facebook user, Rebecca Stewart, commented: “That such a magnificent animal is reduced to that state should shame us all.”

A study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found climate change to be the single most important threat to the survival of polar bears in 2015.