A newly released video from National Geographic captures rarely seen polar bear cannibalism. The victim — a young cub — couldn't outrun the adult male that made a meal of it as its mother watched. (Warning: The video is graphic.)
"This type of intraspecific predation has always occurred to some extent," Jenny Ross, who co-authored a study on a similar event she witnessed, told the BBC in 2011. "However, there are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change."
“In the long term, the populations of these species of food for the polar bears are going to decline,” Peter Ewins, leader of Arctic conservation for the World Wide Fund for Nature, told National Geographic in September. “So it’s not going to be a persisting source of high fat for the polar bears.”
For now, there's no way of knowing for sure whether cannibalism is growing more common. We've certainly become more aware of it in recent years, but that might just be because of an increase in eco-tourism and research in the Arctic. But even if occasional cannibalism is a normal practice when food is scarce, the lean times caused by global warming are hardly going to help.