ARCTIC


The Arctic covers the Earth’s northern pole, the outer edges of the Arctic are Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia. The area is made up of glaciers and tundra; it consists of deep ocean covered by the sea ice. The Arctic is a polar location, so it does not have normal seasons. An Arctic winter has days without sunlight and summer has days where the sun never sets. 

The Arctic has a unique ecosystem with a complex food web, it is one of most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. The wildlife have special adaptations to survive in their icy and changeable environment. Climate change and human interference have threatened the ecological balance of the region. Specifically, scientists proved that temperatures near the North Pole are rising twice as fast compared to the rest of the world, meaning the sea ice is rapidly melting.

Oil and gas development threatens the wildlife and people who live there. The Arctic contains abundant oil and gas reserves underneath the icy exterior. The companies are drilling the coastal plain, which is a critical habitat for animals.











POLAR BEAR

HABITAT: North Pole, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia 

DIET: Carnivore








Polar bears are the largest bears in the world at the top of the food chain. Therefore, they are indicators of the health of the ecosystem. They are a talented swimmer, sustaining a pace of six miles per hour by paddling with their front paws and holding their hind legs.

To survive in extreme weather and conditions, they have a thick layer of body fat and water repellent transparent fur that protects them from the cold air and water. Underneath their fur, they have black skin for soaking the sun’s warming rays. Their fur even grows on the bottom of their paws, protecting against cold surfaces.

Polar Bears typically feed on seals and they spend over 50% of their time hunting for food because they need large amounts of fat to survive. Even though they are a great swimmer, they rely heavily on sea ice for hunting, traveling, mating, resting, and maternal dens. However, the loss of sea ice is a major threat to polar bears.

The reduction of sea ice is mainly because of climate change, but also the oil and gas business is increasingly moving into the Arctic. The operation includes emissions and spills that go directly into the sea or on the sea ice. Additionally, as a top predator, polar bears are exposed to high levels of pollutants through their food.


 



HARP SEAL

HABITAT: Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic

Barents Sea, East Coast of Greenland, Northwest Atlantic Ocean

DIET: Carnivore



Harp Seals are named after the black patch, that looks like a harp, on the back. They have big and fat bodies with small heads; they are about 5 feet long and weigh about 260 to 300 pounds. While they are young, until 3 to 4 weeks, they have long and white fur known as lanugo. But when they grow up, their fur changes to light gray.
 
To live in cold water, harp seals are born without any protective fat, thus, babies develop a thick layer of blubber while nursing. Harp seals gather in large groups, up to a few thousand, to breed and molt. They gather on ice and they migrate together in a large group during the summer. They can dive up to 1,300 feet and stay underwater for 16 minutes. They consume different types of fish and invertebrates.

They are categorized as least concerned but seals have a lot of threats, including hunting, vessel strikes, chemical contaminants, oil development, and climate change.


 








WALRUS

HABITAT: Canada, Greenland, Russia, Alaska 

DIET: Carnivore







Walruses are one of the most intelligent and largest pinnipeds, but they are known for friendly and gentle personalities. Although they are carnivores, they are not furious hunters and their favorite food is shellfish. They dive underwater and use whiskers to detect the shellfish in the dark water. Walruses are very fat, which allows them to keep warm in frigid water, slowing their heart rates.

Most walruses live in frigid waters near the Arctic Circle and they stay on the shallow water to easily hunt for food. They gather by the hundreds and climb up on the ice to sleep and rest. A herd is usually separated by gender, the dominant males are chosen by age, tusk length, and body size.

They are classified as vulnerable, however, it is hard to accurately categorize their conservation status due to the population being unknown. However, it is sure that the population is declining.

The walruses were once threatened by commercial hunting, however, climate change is the biggest fear for the species.The Pacific walrus depends on large chunks of ice to survive, however, due to the declining ice and changing environment, they are at the risk of extinction. Other threats are similar to other animals, such as, the industrial impact on ice melts and chemical spread.


 









ARCTIC FOX
HABITAT: Bear Island, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard

DIET: Carnivore





Arctic foxes, also called polar foxes, are iconic animals with polar bears. They have furry tails, short ears, and short muzzles to survive in cold temperatures. They live in the burrows and blizzards to keep them warm during the snow.

Arctic foxes can change their fur from thick white to brown according to the season. During winter, their fur is white but in the summer their coats become thinner and change to brown or yellow. Their main diet is Arctic hares, birds, and bird eggs.

They were once listed as a critically endangered category due to the fur trade, but their status is better than before except for the Scandinavian mainland. With the demand for pure white fur, they were saved from extinction by the hunting ban in 1928. Even though their conservation status became stable, they are at risk of pollution and climate change. The new threats are disease and the increase of the red fox population, which invaded some of the arctic fox territory, and is an indirect result of climate change.



 
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