In On Thin Ice, Richard Ellis gives a stirring and urgent account of the plight of the polar bear, based on extensive historical and behavioral study of the largest land predator on earth. Here are 10 key facts about the polar bear:
1. Polar bears live only in the Arctic. (There are no penguins where polar bears live.) Because of global warming, the Arctic Ice Cap is shrinking. That means that the polar bear’s habitat is disappearing.
2. The five “Polar Bear Nations” are Canada, the United States (Alaska), Russia, Greenland, and Norway. (Polar bears are not native to Iceland, but they have been showing up there recently.)
3. Polar bears are the largest land predators on Earth. They can stand over 11 feet tall and weigh more than a ton.
4. Polar bears can swim steadily for 100 miles, but if there is no ice at the end of the journey, they will drown.
5. Of all the bears, only the polar bear is an “obligate carnivore,” meaning it eats only meat.
6. The favorite prey of polar bears is the ringed seal. But they will eat anything from walruses to a dead whale.
7. Polar bears probably have the best sense of smell of any animal on Earth. They can smell a seal through three feet of ice or a dead whale ten miles away.
8. The most popular zoo animals are baby polar bears. When “Wilbaer” made his first appearance at the Stuttgart Zoo, 10,000 people showed up.
9. There have been two fatal attacks by polar bears in New York City zoos (Central Park Zoo in 1982 and Prospect Park Zoo [Brooklyn] in 1987).
10. The polar bear has become the poster child for global warming because it is directly affected by the melting ice caps. With Leonardo DiCaprio, the polar bear cub named Knut appeared on the cover of the 2007 “Green” issue of Vanity Fair. Knut alone appeared on the cover of the German Vanity Fair.