The Moscow Zoo’s workers have rescued an orphaned polar bear found and taken care of by a team of gold miners in the Arctic.
The female cub was discovered unprotected on the small island of Bolshevik, which is part of Russia’s Severnaya Zemlya archipelago.
Last year, the starving little bear, assumed to have lost its mother, came sniffing around the miners’ base, most likely looking for food as the bear was still too immature to hunt well.
The miners started feeding the defenseless animal after finding the rogue trying one too several times to get into their shelter.
The female cub had been living near humans for many months and had become so accustomed to them that it began to act like a puppy, playing with the staff and following them around the foundation.
To the crew’s delight, video and photographs taken on the base display the polar bear climbing up and down a wooden ladder and ‘hugging’ one of the guys.
“All we knew was that the cub’s mother died, and that it was months ago when it discovered the base attracted by the smell of food,” said Andrey Gorban, director of the Royev Ruchei Zoo in Krasnoyars, who assisted in the bear’s transfer from Bolshevik to the Moscow rescue center.
Domestication can impair the juvenile bear’s hunting skills, so feeding bears is not only risky but also unlawful. Nevertheless, since this cub was abandoned at such an early age, it is impossible that it would have existed without the assistance of the gold-hearted miners.
Even if they were worried about themselves or the cub’s safety, there was no way to contact animal specialists.
When their contract expired in February, the staff rushed back to inform rescue teams that a helpless cub was alone on Bolshevik, without food and in danger from predators.
“We were told that the men were leaving back to the mainland, and the cub had stayed there alone,” Gorban said.
“Our only hope was that they left quite a big open rubbish site, so there was a chance that the cub could feed off it for weeks,” he continued.
The cub would not have survived in the natural environment on its own, so the polar bear was captured with the aid of the Moscow Zoo and is now being transported from the Arctic to Moscow, according to the Siberian Times.
“The shift workers saved its life, the cub had no chance to survive,” said Gorban.
Since there is no precedent for bringing back polar bears to nature after such extensive human interaction, the next task will be to find the most suitable park for the cub to live in.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), there are only around 31,000 polar bears left in the world today.
Polar bears are in danger as a result of global warming. According to a 2018 report written in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, only a small amount of ice will stay in Northeast Canada and Northern Greenland by 2040.
The study’s lead author, marine biologist Kristin Laidre, stated that if the pace of sea ice degradation and warming keeps increasing, the effect on the polar bear habitat would be much greater than anything seen in the past million years.
Scientists estimate that by 2050, about a third of the polar bear community will be extinct, and though this is difficult to forecast.