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The truth behind the Baffin Bay starving polar bear video is worse than we thought

July 27, 2018

By Paul Homewood


Susan Crockford uncovers the truth behind that “starving polar bear video”:



Remember that video of an emaciated Baffin Island polar bear that went viral last December? In an unexpected follow-up (“Starving-Polar-Bear Photographer Recalls What Went Wrong“; National Geographic, August 2018 issue), photographer Cristina Mittermeier makes some astonishing admissions that might just make you sick.

Baffin Island starving pb headline_GlobalNews_8 Dec 2017

It turns out they didn’t just come across the dying bear the day it was filmed: it was spotted at least two days earlier by Paul Nicklen. He must have had a satellite phone with him when he saw the bear but the only call he made was to his film crew — he made no attempt to find a local conservation officer to euthanize the bear, which would have been the right thing to do.

The bear’s emaciated, near-death stagger1 was simply too tantalizing to pass up (video needs action: an emaciated dead bear would not been nearly as effective). Mittermeier claims they knew when they filmed the bear that he was sick or injured, but Nicklon presented it as an effect of climate change regardless. Mittermeier now says National Geographic simply “went too far” with their video caption (“This is what climate change looks like“), that she and Nicklan “lost control of the narrative.”

Actually, what they lost was their humanity.

Here are some excerpts (my bold):

“Photographer Paul Nicklen and I are on a mission to capture images that communicate the urgency of climate change. Documenting its effects on wildlife hasn’t been easy. With this image, we thought we had found a way to help people imagine what the future of climate change might look like. We were, perhaps, naive. The picture went viral—and people took it literally.

Paul spotted the polar bear a year ago on a scouting trip to an isolated cove on Somerset Island in the Canadian Arctic [August 2017]. He immediately asked me to assemble our SeaLegacy SeaSwat team. SeaLegacy, the organization we founded in 2014, uses photography to spread the message of ocean conservation; the SeaSwat team is a deployable unit of storytellers who cover urgent issues. The day after his call our team flew to an Inuit village on Resolute Bay. There was no certainty that we would find the bear again or that it would still be alive.

…Only when it lifted its head were we able to spot it lying on the ground, like an abandoned rug, nearly lifeless. From the shape of its body, it seemed to be a large male.

We needed to get closer; we boarded a Zodiac boat and motored to land. Strong winds covered our noise and smell. From the shelter of one of the empty buildings, we watched the bear. He didn’t move for almost an hour. When he finally stood up, I had to catch my breath. Paul had warned me about the polar bear’s condition, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. The bear’s once white coat was molted and dirty. His once robust frame was skin and bones. Every step that he took was pained and slow. We could tell he was sick or injured and that he was starving. We could see that he was probably in his last days.

I took photographs, and Paul recorded video.

When Paul posted the video on Instagram, he wrote, “This is what starvation looks like.” He pointed out that scientists suspect polar bears will be driven to extinction in the next century. He wondered whether the global population of 25,000 polar bears would die the way this bear was dying. …

National Geographic picked up the video and added subtitles. It became the most viewed video on National Geographic’s website—ever. … The mission was a success, but there was a problem: We had lost control of the narrative. The first line of the National Geographic video said, “This is what climate change looks like”—with “climate change” highlighted in the brand’s distinctive yellow. In retrospect, National Geographic went too far with the caption.

Perhaps we made a mistake not telling the full story—that we were looking for a picture that foretold the future.

We had sent a “gut-wrenching” image out into the world. We probably shouldn’t have been surprised that people didn’t pick up on the nuances we tried to send with it. Yet we were shocked by the response.”

Read the rest here.

What kind of people sit around for days knowing an animal is suffering an agonizingly slow death and do nothing but plan how to use that suffering animal to make money? Callous and self-absorbed people.

Not only did Nicklen and Mittermeier cold-bloodedly exploit a defenseless, suffering animal without a thought to ending its pain, they still think that what they did was noble and self-sacrificing (they were “on a mission”). They apparently think that their advocacy for climate change relieved them of the responsibility of being humane.

They still don’t understand that many people were as sickened by their lack of compassion as by the film footage itself.  People were also angry that Nicklen and Mittermeier misrepresented the situation: by their own admission, they knew the bear was sick, yet peddled their images as climate change tragedy porn anyway.

Their response to the public backlash (“National Geographic went too far”) is laughable. They just don’t get it: their actions did real damage to their cause.

Bottom line: A polar bear needlessly died a slow, miserable death because of heartless climate change advocacy and it made the public angry.


1. As I pointed out in my State of the Polar Bear Report (Crockford 2018), cancer can cause the kind of profound muscle wasting exhibited by this polar bear. Muscle wasting is more than simply not having enough to eat:  it is the body consuming itself, drawing on all energy reserves to try and fight the illness.

  1. July 27, 2018 9:06 am

    Is there no depth to which these alarmists won’t sink? Rhetorical question. They are evil.

  2. Tony Plummer permalink
    July 27, 2018 9:30 am

    Group beliefs are always more important than the facts.

  3. Ian Magness permalink
    July 27, 2018 9:32 am

    This reminded me of Gordon Buchanan’s dreadful “Polar Bear Family and Me” where, among many other howlers, Buchanan – almost in tears – told us that the bears’ bite marks that he found on washed-up old fishing net floats clearly indicted that they were starving due to global warming, and were thus trying to eat the floats out of desperation. It would have been bad enough but the bears filmed were not obviously slim.
    As an experienced wildlife photographer in northern latitudes, Buchanan would have known perfectly well that bears, especially young bears, are playful and human detritus such as balls, tyres etc are readily turned into playthings, which are often bitten. No starvation implication was warranted. Buchanan should have been ashamed of himself but the BBC, of course, lapped it up.

  4. john cheshire permalink
    July 27, 2018 10:22 am

    ” Seaswat is a deployable team of storytellers…”

    Stories are made up, aren’t they; children are told stories to entertain them. Doesn’t that make this lot just a bunch of children’s entertainers?

    The question is, would you let any of them anywhere near your children?

  5. dave permalink
    July 27, 2018 10:47 am

    “We had lost control of the narrative.”

    No, they had not. There is the whole point of the tired, old, trick. Put something “out there,” and then rely on the usual idiots, in the echo-chamber of hysterics, to amplify the coolly conceived, calculated, propaganda, while preserving plausible deniability for your mealy-mouthed selves.

    • Athelstan permalink
      July 27, 2018 11:59 am

      An echo of my thoughts Dave, well said.

  6. Jeff permalink
    July 27, 2018 11:59 am

    I don’t think you should make it a practise to euthanize wild animals in nature, because you find its death unpleasant.
    Animals in nature dying of starvation, disease, injury or being eaten alive is painful and usually not seen by humans, but it is ridiculous to try to change the natural order.
    Of I agree that using video of a dying bear for climate alarmism is puerile crap.

    • saparonia permalink
      July 27, 2018 12:43 pm

      If everyone thought like you it would indeed be a sad and hopeless world

      • July 27, 2018 1:25 pm

        Don’t blame Jeff, blame nature, or God if you believe in God.

      • July 27, 2018 2:58 pm

        Don’t blame Jeff, blame nature, or a Deity if you believe in a Deity.

      • July 27, 2018 4:28 pm

        Jeff is right in what he says; but human beings are not just ‘clever’ animals having to follow similar predatory behaviour. Humans are unique in possessing what the Hebrew Bible calls ‘neshama’, translated rather feebly in English versions as ‘the breathe of life’ or ‘soul’, which animals do not have (Gen 2:7). Humans became capable of not just looking to their animal needs but looking up and out to their Creator in whom lies hope.
        Sorry, off topic and perhaps not apropriate.

      • July 27, 2018 4:55 pm

        I don’t think it would be “predatory”, just allowing nature to take it’s course, as if we were not there. We have plenty to blame ourselves for which we are responsible, without worrying about things which are not our fault.
        Sorry for the double post. I thought the first one wasn’t going to be accepted, so I toned it down a bit!

      • Jeff permalink
        July 28, 2018 12:35 am

        There are roughly 30,000 polar bears.
        The mature females have 2 cubs per year.
        That means 20-30,000 deaths per year (average 50 – 80 per day)
        Assuming a steady population.
        Almost all of these deaths would be painful and harrowing to watch.
        It would be pointless and hugely expensive to start euthanizing and autopsying dying bears.

      • saparonia permalink
        July 28, 2018 6:52 am

        quaesoveritas, God is a scapegoat then, we can blame our gods. No I have no use for gods or devils. I see the sentience of the cosmos in each living being, including the polar bear.

        What offends is not that living beings suffer and die, but that the reporters had no compassion.

      • Alan Kendall permalink
        July 28, 2018 10:29 am

        I totally disagree. I had an eye-opening moment in the Serengeti when looking at literally tens of thousands of animals it suddenly struck me that all but a few unfortunate individuals were going to die by being eaten alive and that the carnivores were all going eventually to starve to death. At that time I didn’t think of disease, but I suspect that for herbivores this merely preselects those for an earlier death by being caught first.
        For those of us with a squeemish disposition Nature is horrible. Yes a diseased polar bear would have been suffering, but should humans have done anything about it? If you answer yes, would you also interfere to save every gnu’s pain when they are being consumed alive by lions?

    • July 27, 2018 12:57 pm

      Interesting idea
      Every so often we have to euthanize blind myxomatosis rabbit.

      Imagine if it were a seal
      I’d be leaving it to live in pain, and to spread infection to other seals
      Then the seal rescue charity would turn up and spend millions rescuing all the seals .

      Here for the polar bear species maintenance the priority is to find about PB health, so I would have got the health crew ASAP, euthanized it and taken study samples, in order to diagnose and prevent further PB health problems find if there is a disease about , or a strange lack of essential vitamins etc.

  7. saparonia permalink
    July 27, 2018 12:42 pm

    They should be prosecuted. Once they found the animal it was their responsibility to report that it needed help.

  8. July 27, 2018 1:23 pm

    Why would euthanizing the bear have been the right thing to do?
    This sort of thing is common in nature with probably millions of animals suffering and we can’t euthanize them all.
    Animals kill each other, including their own species, often their own offspring in order to survive. It’s the way nature and if you believe in a God, the way God intended it, it’s just that we are unaware of most of the carnage.

  9. July 27, 2018 1:29 pm

    There was a similar stunt made in Syria, by the propaganda organisation ‘White Helmets’ …

  10. Green Sand permalink
    July 27, 2018 3:35 pm

    It’s simply their raison d’etre, or ‘drop the dead donkey’

    • dave permalink
      July 27, 2018 4:10 pm

      ‘…’drop the dead donkey’…

      Slightly faulty memory here. More a case of ‘keep it!’

      In fact, a very early episode has George chiding Damien for his stage-management of the news. George displays on the monitor several film reports Damien has made, from different “war-torn places,” each of which closes with an image of an abandoned teddy-bear, lying on the ground.

      All George says is, “Damien! Give me the bear!”

  11. Lance permalink
    July 27, 2018 4:35 pm

    and here all along, I thought Polo Bears went to the Old Polo Bears folks home….to live out there final days….

    Harsh reality folks….bears are born, live and die…and death can come in many ways…we just don’t get to see them very often.

  12. Bitter@twisted permalink
    July 27, 2018 5:15 pm

    Classic left-wing/green mentality at work here.
    Never let the suffering of others go to waste for the “cause”.

  13. George Lawson permalink
    July 27, 2018 5:31 pm

    One does wonder how many fake photographs and videos are put into the public arena in order to support the AGW cause. We are told that a number of shots in the Attenborough Blue Planet series were set up for the programme, Another shot on the BBC showed a dead sea bird that had been opened up to see what was in the birds crop. It showed a considerable amount of plastic in the crop, which I believe was too much and the pieces far too large to have been swallowed by the bird, with no other normal food with the plastic. Why would a sea bird eat so much plastic rather than the food that it normally eats? and why would only one sea bird in the area be eating it and not all the rest? Another recent report was about a whale that was found dead on the beach and was opened up and over ’80 pieces of plastic were found in its stomach’, but no supporting picture here I came to the opinion that these were fake stories staged by the do gooding anti plastics lobby.

    • July 27, 2018 6:45 pm

      Most documentaries contain a large amount of fakery.
      I think they probably call it “artistic licence”.
      Fake sound effects, fake images of things pretending to be what they are not, fake footage of what it isn’t.
      Speeded up and slowed down footage.
      Staged scenes.
      Think how may docs you have seen with footage of something, when you know it’s not the thing it pretends to be.
      That’s apart from the manipulative music intended to make you think a certain way.
      “Blue Planet II” and “Animals Behaving Badly” are two recent BBC examples and there are probably worse on other channels.
      I think it’s all so part of the documentary makers art, they don’t realise they doing it any more.
      Look at the Old Attenborough docs on iplayer, to see how docs used to be made.

    • Jeff permalink
      July 28, 2018 12:57 am

      Some of the pictures in this “plastic paradise” documentary look fake.

      Generally birds and animals are fairly selective and clever about what they eat.

      They seem to have difficulty controlling the population of seagulls living directly on garbage dumps full of plastic.

      • July 30, 2018 1:41 pm

        The images are selective but also listen to the music.
        It is much more insidious than the images, much, much more subtle.
        In particular viewers are manipulated and told how to think via music.
        I think its equally as important as the visual images.

  14. Adam Gallon permalink
    July 28, 2018 7:43 am

    Here’s this vile creature’s Facebook page. Please visit & leave suitable comments.

  15. Alan Kendall permalink
    July 28, 2018 10:39 am

    Paul thank you for placing some of Susan Crockford’s better efforts onto your blog. It gives those of us who wish to comment favourably upon her work to comment, since, for well known reasons, she doesn’t allow comment.

  16. July 30, 2018 3:12 pm

    Norway : Tourist ship fails to spot polar bear, and thus ends up shooting it dead

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