This photo, winner of the People’s Choice Award for Wildlife Photographer of the Year, illustrates a terrible prophecy.
The Natural History Museum in London has announced the winner of the People’s Choice Award. Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The annual nature photography competition, one of the most prestigious in the world, developed and produced by the essential London museum, reveals each year astonishing images, sometimes light and sometimes heavy with meaning, from photographers from around the world. Among 49 957 applications from 95 countries, this photo found itself in the short list of 25 photos from the international jury of experts before winning the public vote this Wednesday, February 7, 2024.
Entitled “Ice Bed” (“Ice Bed” in French), Nima Sarikhani’s winning photo arouses strong emotions. Before the lens of the London photographer unfolds this incredible scene of a polar bear curled up on an iceberg off the coast of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. If the spectacle fascinates tourists, it illustrates the consequences of global warming in the Arctic, where polar bears are faced with the reduction, fragmentation and even disappearance of their natural habitat: the sea ice. The Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions in the world, at a rate twice the global average, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “This poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet,” commented the director of the Natural History Museum, Douglas Gurr.
The award-winning London photographer tells the story behind the photo: “After spending three days desperately searching for polar bears in thick fog in the far north of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, the expedition ship on which I I found myself decided to change course to turn around and head southeast, where there was still sea ice. That’s where we encountered a young male and another older one. We watched the two ursids for the next eight hours. Just before midnight, the young polar bear climbed onto a small iceberg and, using his powerful paws, clawed at it to carve out a bed for himself before falling asleep. That’s when I photographed him.”
The accelerated melting of polar ice caused by global warming due to the greenhouse effect is sharply reducing the population of polar bears. Indeed, the gradual reduction in the surface of the ice floe has an impact on the ability of this large omnivorous mammal to find its prey, mainly seals, belugas and walruses. The fragmentation of their natural habitat is forcing polar bears to migrate further and further away to survive… According to a scientific study published in 2020 in the journal Nature Climate Changethe increase in greenhouse gases could lead to the extinction of almost all polar bear populations by 2,100… “I hope this photograph also inspires hope; it is still time to repair the mess we have caused,” the winning photographer still underlined.