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Starving polar bear footage stark reminder 'climate change is happening'

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There are calls for action following heart-wrenching footage of a starving polar bear.

Footage of a starving and deathly thin polar bear on Canada's Baffin Island has shocked the internet with social media calling for action against climate change.

Photographer Paul Nicklen and conservation group Sea Legacy captured the desperate polar bear in summer 2017 searching through trash cans for food left by the fisherman.

"We stood there crying - filming with tears rolling down our cheeks," Mr Nicklen told National Geographic.

The footage shows the polar bear dragging along its back leg in exhaustion as it searches for scraps, but collapses to the ground after finding nothing.

Greenpeace Australia's Climate and Energy Campaigner Dr Nikola Čašule told SBS News the video was a stark reminder that climate change is severely affecting animals.

"The footage is absolutely shocking and it is a wake-up call. It's telling us climate change is happening today, not in 10 to 30 years, it is here and it is present and it is affecting these beautiful animals today," Dr Čašule told SBS News.

"Polar bears require the sea ice in the Arctic to survive and they use it to get around. Also, it is the habitat for the seals, which is basically their only food source."

"Polar bears will be facing much harder conditions, including the shrinking of the amount of available food as the ice melts. If you lose the Arctic sea ice, you lose the habitat of the animals that polar bears rely on for food," he added.

"This is a real shock to see it, but a useful one because it emphasises to us that climate change is here and we know we can do something about it." 

Sea Legacy and the photographers who filmed the footage hoped it would help people realise the drastic effects of climate change on animals such as polar bears.

"With these images, we want to wake the world up to the imminence of climate change and to how it will affect wildlife and people for decades to come," the Nat Geo tweet read.

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Starving polar bear footage stark reminder 'climate change is happening': Dr Nikola Čašule
Starving polar bear footage stark reminder 'climate change is happening': Dr Nikola Čašule

Dr Čašule agreed and said it was a fine balance to show the public "shocking and devastating" footage and vision that is more "hopeful", but agreed the starving polar bear was an incredibly powerful illustration.

He said if nothing is done to combat global warming than it could be a "death sentence" for polar bears.

"The thing to be clear about is this is caused by humans. This is not a natural thing that the extent of Arctic sea ice has gone backwards over the last 10-20 years and that [polar ice melting] is directly because of climate change because of dangerous global warming that is driven by human activity," he added.

Social media users, including actresses, authors and activists used the footage to rally behind efforts to raise awareness for climate change.

The photographer was asked why he didn't intervene when he saw the starving polar bear, but pointed out it is illegal to feed the animal in Canada and that the crew had no meat.

Mr Nicklen said he hopes the footage connects with everyone when scientists tell them polar bears could become extinct.

"When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realise what it looks like. Bears are going to starve to death," said Mr Nicklen.

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