Icebergs float in the cold Arctic Ocean. Much of the ocean is covered in ice. The land nearby is frozen. There are few people or trees. But for polar bears, the Arctic is home.
Polar bears have thick fur and other features that make them well prepared for life in the Arctic. In fact, the bears need the Arctic sea ice for survival.
Climate change is causing larger and larger areas of summer sea ice to melt. Experts warn that if warming patterns continue, the Arctic could be free of sea ice during its summers by 2050. That may cause two-thirds of the world's 20,000 polar bears to be gone by then too.
Steven Amstrup is a scientist with Polar Bears International. The group is dedicated to saving the bears and their habitat. "The more people who see polar bears and understand their plight, the better the chance we will [change our ways] in time to save them," he told TFK.
WHAT ZOOS CAN DO
Few people can see polar bears in the wild. That's where zoos come in. The St. Louis Zoo, in Missouri, is building a $20 million polar bear exhibit. It is scheduled to open in 2017. The North Carolina Zoo, in Asheboro, plans to open its new polar bear exhibit late next year.
"If you save the polar bears, you are doing something dramatic to help the environment," says Jeffrey Bonner, president of the St. Louis Zoo.
Bonner and other zoo experts are working to show how rescuing orphaned cubs could help the species survive. Zoos would provide the cubs with a safe home. Experts would work to breed the bears and keep their populations healthy.
When there is less ice and snow in the north, the entire planet becomes warmer. You can do your part to help protect the environment and the polar bears' habitat. "If everybody does small things, that adds up," says Bonner.
To access the digital edition of Time For Kids, go to timeforkids.com/digital.