Every year on March 3, it’s World Wildlife Day! This is a time when we are all encouraged to celebrate the beautiful aspects of Mother Nature and raise awareness for conservation of our treasured wildlife.
In light of this important date, we’re going to name the top five most popular polar animals, why they are so loved and what you can do to help their survival.
1. Polar bears
Read more: How you can help save the polar bears
Large, fluffy and cute, we don’t know anyone who doesn’t love polar bears! They only live in the Arctic Circle, and aren’t the types of bears that hibernate. When curled up, polar bears will cover their noses to conserve heat – adorable and clever!
However, due to many issues resulting from climate change, polar bears are seeing their environment change with ice melting and food sources (mostly seals) disappearing. Currently, there are three subpopulations of polar bears in decline, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports. Polar Bears International predict that the entire polar population could be extinct by 2100!
To help, you can also ‘adopt’ a polar bear through WWF, where your donation will contribute towards polar bear survival practices. This is a virtual adoption, but you will receive a photo, adoption certificate and plush toy – a perfect way for you to get little ones excited and passionate about polar bear conservation.
It also fits in nicely with this year’s World Wildlife Day theme – “Listen to young voices”.
These adorable birds are another popular polar animal. All but one of the 17 species live in the Southern Hemisphere, with eight of them in Antarctica. Unfortunately, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) organisation reports that 11 penguin species are considered vulnerable or endangered.
Penguins breed in large colonies, like a group huddle, mainly to help keep each other warm. The need to eat can be very competitive, especially with decreasing krill numbers – the top staple of a penguin’s diet. Only the fittest survive, but with global warming rapidly changing their environment, the population of penguins are rapidly falling.
To #DoOneThingToday in light of World Wildlife Day, you can help by buying products such as nutritional supplements that aren’t made from krill, ASOC explains. Reducing your carbon footprint will also go towards preserving the delicate environment in which penguins live.
Read more: Wildlife Fact File – Leopard Seal
There are many species of seals that live in both poles. A lot of them live atop of the ice, breeding and birthing there, but seek out food either near an ice hole or diving under into the icy water.
Seals all vary in life cycles, feeding and breeding habits, as well as colour, size and shape. With global warming melting their sea ice environment, however, the chances of seal pups surviving past weaning stages are decreasing in high numbers.
To help these tubby creatures, you can donate towards conservation organisations that all aim to reduce seal hunting and fishing, and rather focus on rescue, rehabilitation and environmentally friendly practices.
Read more: Swimming records held by whales
To see a whale with your own eyes during an expedition is a magical, breathtaking experience. A glimpse of a tail waving above sea level, perhaps a spurt of water from their blowhole, it’s truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. Blue whales in particular, the largest species, can spray water to almost 10 metres in the air, as stated by National Geographic. The weight of their hearts are comparable to a car, whereas just their tongues could be as heavy as an elephant.
You may not know this, but the ever-popular killer whale actually belongs to the dolphin species! Meanwhile, if you do spot a sperm whale during your Antarctica cruise, it’s likely to be a male, as the females and young tend to stick to warmer waters.
Through the early 20th century, whales were hunted for their oil, which unfortunately resulted in a drastic decline of their population. Blue whales themselves are classified as endangered.
To help all species of whales against hunting, the International Whaling Commission founded the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to help disestablish all lethal whaling, which the ASOC highly supports.
Read more: All about Antarctic birdlife
Penguins aren’t the only mighty polar bird! We believe that the albatross deserves a spot in the top five, not only because the wandering albatross hold the largest wingspan of all seabirds, but also because they can travel a distance of 10,000 kilometres in as little as 10 days! You’ll likely see them in the air, gliding smoothly with their impressive wings, rather than on land.
Sadly, commercial fishing boats with longline baited hooks pose an immediate danger to albatrosses, as well as plastic rubbish, oil spills and climate change which all threaten the survival of these birds.
The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels was formed to help fishing charters modify the equipment they use so that they won’t injure birds. The main thing that everyone else can do is to help keep our sea waters clean of non-biodegradable substances that could injure the fragile ecosystem.
As you can see, both poles are full of unique wildlife that are all under threat due to global warming and climate change. That’s why it’s so important to support days like World Wildlife Day, just to show the environment that we greatly treasure each and every animal that we may or may not spot during our polar excursions. #DoOneThingToday to help out!
If you’re keen to see a particular wildlife species but aren’t sure which expedition is best, ask our friendly Expedition Experts who’ll be more than happy to help.