Karen Belz
Updated February 27, 2018

Happy International Polar Bear Day! The holiday, which takes place annually on February 27th, is the perfect time to reflect on why polar bears are endangered and what we can do to help save them.

For some handy background: The National Wildlife Federation believes that polar bears may have evolved from brown bears. The typical lifespan of a polar bear in the wild is around 25 years, but those in captivity have proven to live almost double that number. The problem is that certain subpopulations of polar bears are declining.

Back in 2014, it was reported by Polar Bears International that out of 19 subpopulations, three were declining. In comparison, just one seemed to be increasing. The others either remained unchanged or lacked the necessary data to accurately report how many polar bears were still surviving. An estimate by IUCN, which document which animals are on the “red list” of endangerment, reported that there were likely 26,000 polar bears still living.

But many may be wondering: Why are polar bears struggling?

There are a few factors to consider, but one of the biggest is global warming.

Due to changes in climate, their icy habitats are shrinking, and many of their homes are melting. The National Wildlife Federation reports that polar bears simply can’t adapt to temperatures above 50 degrees.

Wildlife biologist Steven Amstrup, who works as the chief scientist at Polar Bears International, told Science back in 2010 that there may be hope for the future of the bears if we successfully lower greenhouse gas emissions. By doing this, we may prevent sea ice — which is crucial for the species — from disappearing.

Polar Bears International has a wealth of ideas on how you can help. For one, you can try riding a bike to work if possible. If not, opting for public transportation instead of using your car also helps. You can also vote for candidates who prioritize our planet and believe that climate change is a real and pressing danger. And finally, you can donate to wildlife conservation funds like Polar Bear International, here.