The images, taken in Hudson Bay, Canada, around 200 miles north of the town of Churchill, Manitoba, show a male polar bear carrying the bloodied head of a polar bear cub it has killed for food.
Polar bears usually subsist on seals, which they hunt from a platform of sea ice. But the melting of sea ice as a result of rising global temperatures has made it more difficult for polar bears to hunt seals at sea, confining the bears to land.
This has led to malnourishment and starvation as polar bears are unable to build sufficient fat reserves for winter.
Certainly, that\’s a possible interpretation of the events. However, (and this is of course purely speculation) there are other possible interpretations.
Manitoba Conservation normally receive one to two reports of bear cannibalisation annually, but scientists say they are aware of eight cases so far this year.
OK, bear cannibalisation is not unknown.
There\’s an increase in observed cases. Why?
Are there more people touring the area so that they\’re seeing more? Well, yes, there are more people touring the area (Churchill has become something of a tourist hotspot in recent years….well, compared to the past, anyway).
We also think that cannibalism rises when the population is stressed: not so much in the manner described above, but when population pressure rises. And it\’s certainly true that the population of polar bears in Hudson Bay has risen in recent years.
It could indeed be climate change causing it: but that\’s all a little too pat just in the week of the Copenhagen conference, isn\’t it?