Hungry and bewildered, dozens of polar bears are besieging For days, a small military settlement in the Russian Arctic. Fearful of finding them in the street, their inhabitants are avoiding leaving their homes or sending their children to school. The animals have already attacked several people and have broken into houses and premises. So far they have taken the local landfill. And there they feed. The authorities have declared the state of emergency in this place, the Novaya Zemlya archipelago (New Earth), in which almost 3,000 people live, and have sent a group of experts in polar bears to sedate them.
The videos that show these animals, in some cases aggressive, entering the buildings of towns such as Belushya Guba and walking through its streets, have set off alarms. Not only because of the "unprecedented massive invasion," as the head of the local administration has called it, Zhigansha Musin; if not especially because it may be one more symptom of climate change and how the retreat of Arctic ice is forcing these animals to abandon their natural habitat, reaching inhabited areas, alert environmental organizations.
The Russian authorities and the scientists of the official bodies have not openly wagered openly for this theory, and they say rather that animals have been attracted to human activity. This is the opinion of Ilyá Mordvintsev, from the study program of the polar bear of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who believes that the situation is mainly due to the migratory patterns of these animals and the action of man. And it puts the focus on the maintenance of the island, where apparently the military has not respected the strict regulations on waste disposal that must be followed by mining and oil companies throughout the northern region of Russia; precisely to avoid attracting these animals.
The coordinator of biodiversity programs in the WWF Arctic, Mikhail Stishov, agrees in part, but does highlight the problem of global warming. "Due to climate change there is no ice. Things are getting worse and getting worse. A polar bear searches for food on the ice. That's why now he spends more time on the shores looking for food. If those animals find food on the earth they are grouped there. In this case, polar bears have been attracted to a landfill, "he says. "Until this dump is destroyed, the animals are not going to leave the place," adds Stishov.
In the archipelago, local authorities say that the neighbors have spent days of real despair. And they have demanded that reinforcements arrive to shoot the animals. "The bears have been literally chasing people. The neighbors are afraid and do not want to leave the house. Parents are not willing for their children to go to school or daycare, "said Alexander Mináyev, deputy head of the region. In an official statement, the authorities of Arjángelsk, the region on which this territory depends, explain that bears are beginning to arrive to this archipelago in the depths of the Russian Arctic since December. In recent days it has seen at least 52, in some cases aggressive.
"When I was a child I remember that the situation was very different, there was not so much garbage, people themselves have created a landfill," she says through Vkontakte (a Russian social network similar to Facebook), Rada Nechytai, a 26-year-old girl He has lived for years in Belushya Guba. "Before, in the early nineties, a truck came at night and went through the houses collecting garbage, it was very rare for bears to come to the area, now it's scary to walk because there's a garbage can in every corner," he adds.
Russia defines polar bears as an endangered species. And they are protected. But not in the whole country. In fact, the authorities allow hunting by some indigenous groups in the north. But not on the islands of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, a restricted military zone with a nuclear power station and several small settlements, such as Belushya Guba, where only people from outside live.