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Planet Earth Under Threat

World on the Move - a note from far away

  • Beatrice Fenton
  • 11 Dec 07, 10:17 AM

We at the Natural History Unit Radio Team are working on a big series for next year at the moment. It’s called World on the Move and it will follow the movements of animals around the world as they migrate and disperse. It’s a major event for BBC Radio 4 going out live every Tuesday at 11am from February 2008 - December 2008.

(Photo taken by Viktor Nikiforov/WWF - Tom Arnbom is the one in red, the others are like a white wall so that the male polar bear would not see him)

World on the Move reporter Tom Arnbom is out in Vankarem, Chukotka, north-east Russia at the moment with WWF's Polar Bear Patrol project.

Last year due to the lack of sea ice, polar bears were "trapped" on the peninsula where Vankarem is situated, waiting for the winter ice to freeze so that they could go out hunting on the sea ice after many months of starvation on land. Vankarem has about 150-200 inhabitants, and they had about 200 polar bears running around trying to find something to eat. Not a good combination - a couple of years ago a teenage girl was killed by a bear. So WWF together with the locals set up a “Bear Patrol”.

Tom’s out there this year to see what’s going on. He’s sent a note and these amazing pictures back. Here's what he wrote to me...

Hej B,

Just a short note to let you know how things are going. The polar bear migration is delayed at least 6-8 weeks this year, due to lack of winter sea ice. Several hundreds of polar bears are missing - probably still stranded on Wrangel Island.

(Tom reporting for World on the Move - photo taken by Viktor Nikiforov/WWF)

The ocean is open - the winter ice should have been formed in October - climate change.

The summer drift ice has totally disappeared this year - and more than 65 000 walruses, probably closer to 75 000 have hauled-out on the mainland of Chukotka and Wrangel Island. They can no longer rest on the drift ice between feeding dives in shallow waters.

(photo taken by Viktor Nikiforov/WWF)

The big shock for me is that thousands of walruses have died, and when we went along a 17 km long stretch of coastline, we counted more than 50 carcasses. There is no lack of food if the polar bears will manage to get ashore.

(photo taken by Viktor Nikiforov/WWF)

This year, the number of polar bears giving birth on the mainland of Chukotka will me almost to zero, that has never happened before - there are probably 20-30 females in a normal year - but no sea ice - no ice bridge from Wrangel to the mainland.

(photo taken by Viktor Nikiforov/WWF)

When I arrived, the ocean was covered with drift ice - minus 20 degrees C. After some days the wind shifted, to southeast. - heavy rain.
Next day all the ice was blown out to sea and the ocean was dark and open.
Then, the seabirds turned up, many ivory gull and incredible 2 000
Ross gulls migrated by in three hours - must be a dream for twitchers.

Hopefully, the helicopter can make it to us son, it has been cancelled for five days in a row now due to bad weather., i.e. snowstorm.

Best wishes,

(Tom Arnbom sending news back - photo taken by Viktor Nikiforov/WWF)

You can hear more from Tom at his expedition diary at the WWF's website.

Look out for more World on the Move stories soon...

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:34 PM on 23 Jan 2008,
  • Gilmore Smyth wrote:

Does anybody know anything about wolf migration in Germany moving down 'green' corridors, anywhere from the Baltic to the czech republic?

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