This 'soul-crushing' video of a starving polar bear on dry land shows how global warming is destroying wildlife

  • Heartbreaking video shows a starving polar bear scavenging for food on dry land.
  • The scene in Canada's Baffin Islands was taken by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen.
  • Nicklen said he and his crew were "filming with tears rolling down our cheeks."

A video of a starving wild polar bear roaming around dry land looking for food has gone viral.

In the heartbreaking footage, taken in Canada's northerly Baffin Islands, the bony male polar bear slowly ambles along dry land.

Head down, he rummages in a nearby rubbish bin looking for food. When he finds nothing, he slumps to the ground.

Canadian photographer Paul Nicklen, who recorded the scene with conservation group Sea Legacy, told National Geographic: "We stood there crying — filming with tears rolling down our cheeks."

RELATED: Foods that could go extinct due to climate change

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Foods that could go extinct due to climate change
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Foods that could go extinct due to climate change

Avocados

There are many reasons why avocados are more expensive now than ever before, including a farmers' strike. But the biggest threats to avocados are rooted in environmental issues linked to climate change: hot weather and droughts have caused problems everywhere from California to Australia. Avocados are weather-sensitive and slow growing — making them especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. 

(Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Coffee

In September, a report from the nonprofit Climate Institute concluded that the area around the world fit for coffee production would decrease by 50% due to climate change. In addition to dealing with drought, climate change has made coffee crops more vulnerable to diseases like coffee rust, which have wiped out more than a billion dollars in crops. 

(Photo by Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Beer

Warmer and more extreme weather is hurting hops production in the US, reports ClimateWatch Magazine. 

And droughts could mean less tasty drinks. Some brewers fear that a shortage of river water may force them to brew with groundwater — a change that the head brewer at Lagunitas said "would be like brewing with Alka-Seltzer," according to NPR. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Oysters

Right now, climate change is actually helping oysters, as they grow faster in warmer waters. However, warmer waters also make oysters more susceptible to oyster drills, reports Seeker, citing a recent study in Functional Ecology

Drills are snails that attack and eat oysters. They're already a multi-million dollar problem for the oyster industry that could get worse thanks to warming water temperatures.

(Photo via Getty Images)

Maple syrup

Climate change is already shifting maple syrup tapping season and impacting the quality of syrup, according to Climate Central. Southern producers fear that eventually, areas like Virginia won't get cold enough for maple syrup production, even during the chilliest time of the year. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Chocolate

Indonesia and Ghana, which have historically had ideal climates for growing cocoa beans, are already seeing decreased yields of cocoa. Chocolate companies, like Mars, have hired meteorologists to study the impact of changing weather patterns and attempt to reduce damage. 

"If climate conditions in these growing areas begin to change over time, it may influence both the supply and quality available of an ingredient that we use in our products," Katie Johnson, a senior manager on the commercial applied research team, told Business Insider in September. "Anticipating what the climate will be like 10, 20, or even 100 years from now is difficult, though the better we can understand what the different climate scenarios and risks to our supply chain are, the more prepared we can be in the future."

(Photo by Charlotte Lake / Alamy)

Lobsters

If ocean waters increase more than five degrees, baby lobsters may not be able to survive, according to research by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the Guardian reported. 

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the Gulf of Maine will reach that temperature by 2100. In other words, Maine's lobsters could go from a more than $330 million business to extinct in 84 years. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

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The bear most likely died "within hours or days of this moment," and there was nothing Nicklen could have done to save him, he said on Instagram.

Feeding wild polar bears is illegal in Canada, and even if it weren't, feeding the bear would only prolong his misery, National Geographic said.

Nicklen added: "It's not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat."

Watch the video, which Nicklen posted on Instagram on Tuesday, here:

My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death. When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner. There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear. The simple truth is this—if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment. But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth—our home—first. Please join us at @sea_legacy as we search for and implement solutions for the oceans and the animals that rely on them—including us humans. Thank you your support in keeping my @sea_legacy team in the field. With @CristinaMittermeier #turningthetide with @Sea_Legacy #bethechange #nature #naturelovers This video is exclusively managed by Caters News. To license or use in a commercial player please contact info@catersnews.com or call +44 121 616 1100 / +1 646 380 1615”

A post shared by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

The photographer wrote in the accompanying caption:

"My entire Sea Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear.

"It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy.

"This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death.

"When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner.

"There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear.

"The simple truth is this — if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment.

"But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth — our home — first."

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