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Heartbreaking footage shows the devastating effect climate change is having on polar bears

You’ve probably never seen a polar bear that looks like this before.

A wildlife photographer who filmed a starving polar bear walking limply across an ice-free landscape hopes the footage can show people the effects of climate change.

Ice is melting earlier in spring and re-freezing later in autumn in all of the Arctic regions polar bears inhabit, according to various studies, placing increasing pressure on the animals.

Paul Nicklen captured the heartbreaking footage on Canada’s Baffin Island, and said he released it so the animal’s death wouldn’t be in vain.

“We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks,” the biologist and photographer told National Geographic.

Nicklen said he thought about intervening, but decided he’d only be prolonging the bear’s suffering – and “it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilliser gun or 400 pounds of seal meat”, he said.

Polar bears feed mostly on seals and spend around 50% of their time hunting, relying on sea ice as they can’t out-swim their prey. They’re currently listed as a species “vulnerable” to the effects of climate change.

The half-a-ton mammals are also living on faster drifting ice, making it necessary to expend more energy and thus consume between one and three more seals per year than they previously had to, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

And with less ice available for hunting, the bears are having to travel further – putting yet more pressure on the animals.

“When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realise what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death,” Nicklen said. “This is what a starving bear looks like.”

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