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Photographer Links Heartbreaking Image Of Polar Bear To Climate Change And Post Goes Viral On Facebook

15/09/2015 09:31 | Updated 16 September 2015

"Beautiful bears, photogenic bears, playful or even at a kill," noted Kerstin Langenberger -- a wildlife photographer from Germany, who was describing the types of polar bears tourists usually spot in Svalbard, a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean.

Writing on her Facebook page, she then went on to describe the stark reality of what has happened to these beloved bear populations.

"I have also seen dead and starving polar bears," she added as she linked her observations to climate change. And to make her point, she posted this image.

polar bear global warming

Since she posted it on August 20, it has been shared over 40,000 times and liked by more than 20,000 Facebook users.

Her message was clear.

"Only few times I have seen beautifully fat mothers with beautifully fat young.

"Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females - like this one here.

"A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land."

Langenberger was dogmatic about what is to be blamed for these malnourished bears: the rapid rise of global temperatures.

"I see the glaciers calving, retreating dozens to hundreds of metres every year. I see the pack ice disappearing in record speed."

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However, some climate change experts have urged more caution in blaming global warming for what we see in these images.

Ian Stirling, an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, told Mashable: "You have to be a little bit careful about drawing conclusions immediately."

He added: “I don’t think you can tie that one to starvation because of lack of sea ice.”

Two years ago, Stirling commented on another image of a starved polar bear. Speaking to The Guardian, he explained how the animal had died due to a lack of sea ice.

Langenberger is also sure about where she lays the blame.

"With the pack ice retreating further and further north every year, they (female bears) tend to be stuck on land where there's not much food."

Other photographers including Paul Nicklen, a National Geo fellow, who posted this image on Instagram after travelling to Svalbard appear to agree with Langenberger:

"These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals.

"In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear."

Last summer I traveled with a group of friends to Svalbard, Norway in search of polar bears. We went to my favorite spot where I have always been able to find bears roaming around on sea ice throughout the summer. On this occasion, however, we didn't find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive. We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears. These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals. In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear. It is now becoming much more common. Through @sea_legacy and @natgeo we will continue to shine a light on our changing planet to convince the unconvinced. Please follow me on @paulnicklen to learn more about the effects of climate change. #polarbear #nature #wildlife #arctic #seaice @thephotosociety

A photo posted by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

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