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Monthly Archives: July 2014 − News

Polar bear freed from nylon noo­se

A polar bear being obser­ved some weeks ago in Nort­hern Spits­ber­gen with a thin nylon rope around its neck was now loca­ted and freed from the noo­se by mem­bers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. The case illus­tra­tes the dan­ger for arc­tic wild­life occur­ring by the incre­a­sing amount of plastic was­te floa­ting in the sea and being was­hed ashore.

It was in the end of June as the polar bear was seen and pho­to­gra­phed for the first time in Woodfjord by mem­bers of a boat trip on the »Arc­ti­ca II«. The sailors infor­med the Sys­sel­mann, who star­ted to look out for the bear and asked for report in case of anyo­ne see­ing it. Pres­um­a­b­ly the thin rope around the animal’s neck ori­gi­nal­ly was part of a trawl net. It was tied to a solid noo­se and the loo­se end hang about one meter to the ground. For­tu­n­a­te­ly the noo­se was not too tight so that the bear was not direct­ly hurt or han­di­cap­ped in breat­hing. The Sysselmann´s experts saw the grea­test dan­ger for the polar bear in taking much food in a short peri­od of time, when for examp­le fin­ding a cada­ver or hun­ting a seal. In this case it could gain weight quick­ly and the noo­se would get tigh­ter and strang­le the bear’s neck and cut into the skin.

The chan­ce to find a sin­gle indi­vi­du­al in such a lar­ge, deser­ted area usual­ly is very low. So it was a lucky inci­dent as on 22nd of July the Sys­sel­mann got the report of the bear being seen clo­se to the trap­per sta­ti­on on Aus­t­fj­ord­nes in inner Wij­defjord. On the same day mem­bers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te arri­ved the­re with a heli­co­p­ter. They could find the bear and anesthe­ti­ze it. After remo­ving the noo­se and exami­ning the bear, the rese­ar­chers made sure that the ani­mal woke up and star­ted moving again.

The polar bear was lucky being found and being a polar bear. Such an exten­si­ve ope­ra­ti­on would not have been star­ted for a rein­de­er or for a sin­gle bird. Espe­cial­ly some sorts of birds face ano­t­her thread from the plastic was­te: They swal­low small plastic pie­ces which will not be digested and can lead to the animal’s death. A recent sur­vey among nort­hern ful­mars on Spits­ber­gen has shown that 90% of the birds have small plastic pie­ces in their sto­machs.

Stran­ded plastic was­te can turn into a trap for wild ani­mals


(On the plastic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem see also »The Oce­an Cleanup: solu­ti­on for the glo­bal plastic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem« Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news from June 2014)

Source: Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te

Rein­de­er sur­vey on Spits­ber­gen: local popu­la­ti­on kept gro­wing

The Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te finis­hed its annu­al sur­vey of the local rein­de­er popu­la­ti­on in Advent­da­len and the results tur­ned out to be qui­te sur­pri­sing for the sci­en­tists: Again the num­ber of ani­mals incre­a­sed to a new all-time high.

In June sci­en­tists of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te count the rein­de­ers in Advent­da­len and the sur­roun­ding side val­leys. This year they coun­ted clo­se to 1500 indi­vi­du­als, almost 300 more than last year, which alrea­dy mar­ked an all-time high. Ano­t­her sur­vey, arran­ged by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Trom­sø, con­fir­med the­se results. Due to the last year´s rela­tively high num­ber of old indi­vi­du­als, an incre­a­se was not expec­ted this year. But the sci­en­tists coun­ted a sur­pri­sin­gly high num­ber of cal­ves, more than 300, and on the other hand the num­ber of dead bodies they found was low. Only 20 cada­vers were found, in bad years the­re were bet­ween 100 and 200.

The rea­son for the repeated incre­a­se in popu­la­ti­on can be seen in con­ve­ni­ent cli­ma­tic con­di­ti­ons, pro­vi­ding bet­ter gra­zing oppor­tu­nities to the ani­mals. High tem­pe­ra­tures in last year´s sum­mer did alrea­dy lead to exten­ded vege­ta­ti­on growth so that the rein­de­ers were well pre­pa­red for the cold sea­son. As then the last win­ter was rela­tively mild, food might have been easi­ly acces­si­ble. Nor­mal­ly mild win­ters with occa­sio­nal rain-peri­ods lead to icing and sealing of the ground, which makes gra­zing more dif­fi­cult. In the last win­ter the­re were rain-peri­ods but obvious­ly this nega­ti­ve effect was mis­sing. Par­ti­cu­lar­ly at the steep slo­pes of the val­leys the rain might have expo­sed the vege­ta­ti­on com­ple­te­ly.

Sin­ce the begin­ning of the rein­de­er sur­vey in Advent­da­len in 1979 the­re were always natu­ral varia­ti­ons regis­tered. An incre­a­se in popu­la­ti­on can lead to over­gra­zing in the next year, an effect that would be acce­le­ra­ted under unfa­vor­able cli­ma­tic con­di­ti­ons. After a strong popu­la­ti­on growth in the last two years the sci­en­tists the­re­fo­re expect a stron­ger decli­ne next win­ter.

Rein­de­ers in Advent­da­len


Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten


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