The BAFTA Award-winning series returns with a one-off feature-length Arctic special in search of the world’s largest land carnivore: the polar bear. The Inside Nature’s Giants team of experts join Inuit hunters and scientists studying these iconic creatures off the coast of Greenland. Polar bears have become a symbol of climate change as their habitat is threatened. And at the top of the food chain they are especially vulnerable to physiological side effects from man-made pollutants.
Scientists have been monitoring the levels of toxic chemicals found in polar bears for over a decade. There are early signs of changes to their reproductive organs and neurological damage. The scientists collect blood and fresh tissue samples and collaborate with local people who are permitted to hunt a small quota of bears. The hunting is strictly controlled, using traditional methods and avoiding mothers with cubs. The Inside Nature’s Giants experts join the expedition to carry out an anatomical dissection to explore some of the mysteries of the polar bear. Veterinary scientist Mark Evans is upset by his first encounter with a freshly-hunted polar bear. Comparative anatomist Professor Joy Reidenberg is astonished by the thickness of the polar bear’s fur and even more surprised to discover that while its skin is black and its fur translucent, the polar bear still appears white.
The programme asks how they cope with such a high fat diet of seal blubber without risking heart failure. And, out on the ice, Simon Watt crawls inside a recently evacuated polar bear den and traces their remarkable evolutionary story. As their habitat melts and their food becomes increasingly contaminated, the polar bears’ future looks precarious. Can they adapt fast enough to survive this rapidly changing world?
Thursday 30th June, 9PM, Channel 4