<p>The polar bear's weak muscles, atrophied by extended starvation, could barely hold it up.</p>

The polar bear's weak muscles, atrophied by extended starvation, could barely hold it up.

Photograph by Cristina Mittermeier

Starving Polar Bear Photographer Explains Why She Couldn’t Help

Cristina Mittermeier describes the helplessness she felt while photographing the polar bear and implores readers to take climate change seriously.

On December 7, National Geographic published this video of a polar bear foraging for food in Baffin Island. The video received widespread attention, with many seeing it as a representation of melting sea ice and climate change. Cristina Mittermeier, co-founder of SeaLegacy and one of the National Geographic photographers present at the time photographer Paul Nicklen recorded the video, shared the story of that day. The following is a first-hand account from the photographer.

There is nothing worse for someone who loves wildlife and nature than to witness the suffering of an animal. That is why photographing the distress of this polar bear, and being unable to help it, was so hard.

Weak muscles, atrophied by extreme starvation, could barely hold him up. It was clear that, even if I had fed him the handful of nuts I had in my backpack, without sea ice from which to hunt, his prospects of survival would be slim.

As he staggered, clearly in pain, toward the abandoned fishing camp from which we were observing and found some trash to eat, I wished I had something more to feed him. He chewed on a piece of burnt

DON'T MISS THE REST OF THIS STORY!
Create a free account to continue and get unlimited access to hundreds of Nat Geo articles, plus newsletters.

Create your free account to continue reading

No credit card required. Unlimited access to free content.
Or get a Premium Subscription to access the best of Nat Geo - just $19
SUBSCRIBE

Read This Next

'World’s worst shipwreck' was bloodier than we thought
World’s first ultrasounds of wild manta rays reveal a troubling truth
Titanic was found during secret Cold War Navy mission

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet