His real name ?
Isbjorn N23992: a 17-year-old female polar bear from the mountainous archipelago of Svalbard, a Norwegian territory located between Greenland and King George Island, in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.
Last September, the animal nicknamed Frost and her cubs once again broke into holiday cabins in this region, which is very popular with polar tourism.
Probably to look for food there.
On the Svalbardposten website, which relates the case, photos of the interiors of devastated buildings follow that of a polar bear standing against the door of a cabin.
Faced with the multiplication of these incidents, and with the arrival of the polar night which plunges the archipelago into darkness for several weeks, a local elected official believes that it could be preferable to euthanize Frost to avoid a tragedy - in particular with the children going to school.
Although up to this day, Frost has never hurt anyone.
The Svalbard press covers the case on its website Screenshot from Svalbardposten
Increase in human-wildlife conflict
Svalbard is not an isolated case.
All over the planet, conflicts between humans and wildlife have been drastically intensifying for several years.
In most cases, it is the loss of natural habitats and the reduction of buffer zones that generate this kind of devastating collision for both animals and homo sapiens.
In Svalbard, on the other hand, where only 2,700 people cohabit with around 300 polar bears over a vast area of 61,000 square kilometers, the problem should not arise.
But global warming, which is eroding the sea ice, has reduced their natural hunting ground.
Added to this is the increase in tourist numbers.
This had a perverse effect on their behavior: by getting used to the presence of human beings,
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The drastic decrease in the surface of the sea ice has disastrous consequences for polar bears and pushes them to move closer to inhabited areas.
Mario Hoppmann / stock.adobe.com
Spotted by scientists in 2009 at the age of four, Frost has been tracked by a GPS collar since 2017. The device sends her geolocation once a day to scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute.
If the animal enters a radius of less than 25 kilometers around Longyearbyen, capital of the Svalbard archipelago, the signal is sent once every four hours – the frequency of sending can be increased, but at the expense of the battery .
It is also thanks to its collars (approximately 70 are installed each year by scientists) that the Norwegian Polar Institute can study the evolution of the behavior of polar bears, in particular vis-à-vis the reduction in sea ice.
An ice floe which, according to NASA satellite studies,
A French tourist injured this summer
If Frost herself has never hurt anyone, her cubs have not.
Last August, a French tourist was injured in the arm by one of them.
The life of the victim, who was on a trek with 25 other people, was not endangered but the cub, injured by rifle fire, was terminated by authorities.
In August 2020, a 38-year-old Dutchman lost his life in a similar accident at a camp near Longyearbyen.
In the wake of these incidents, the damage caused by Frost and his children to several cabins has prompted some citizens of the capital to demand that action be taken.
One of them being the killing of the animal.
But in Norway, the law is very firm on the application of this solution.
An animal can be killed
"when it is deemed necessary to avert a danger to the life or health of a person, or to avoid significant material damage",
specifies the Svalbard Environmental Act in its article 33. In the case of Freya, the walrus who rode on boats in the port of Oslo, the decision to euthanize the animal had been taken by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries after consultation with several scientific bodies which had advised against a non-lethal approach.
Often taken for granted by the general public, anesthetizing and relocating animals is not easy – witness the failed rescue of the beluga whale stranded in the Seine last summer.
In 2020, in Svalbard, a two-year-old cub was seen less than three miles from Longyearbyen.
The local authorities had taken off a helicopter to pursue him, immobilize him with a tranquilizer dart to transport him to the northeast of the archipelago.
An operation supervised by scientists from the Norwegian Polar Institute which resulted in the death of the animal, caused by heart failure related to stress and anesthesia.
Svalbard is not Oslo or Paris.
You have to get used to living with the danger of the wilderness.
Asgeir Helgestad, director of a documentary about the bear Frost
At the dawn of the polar winter, the fate of Isbjorn N23992 is therefore not yet sealed.
And the one to whom she owes her nickname of "Frost", the director and photographer Asgeir Helgestad, to hope that she will not suffer the same fate as Freya the walrus.
"When you live in Svalbard, you have to get used to living with the danger of wild nature",
the one who followed the bear and her cubs for five years for his documentary "On the ice, a queen without a kingdom”, broadcast on France 3.
“You have to understand that Svalbard is not Oslo or Paris.
We are 7.5 billion human beings on the planet, do we really have to take control of every square meter to make it safe?
For the director, putting Frost to death would be a profound injustice.
“She is one of the most famous polar bears on the planet!
She has appeared in other documentaries, on Netflix or on the BBC… She has contributed enormously to raising awareness of the warming of the Arctic, which is the region of the globe that is experiencing the fastest rises in temperature.
If for the moment the law
is on his side, it remains to be seen how the Norwegian government will choose to act on the case of Isbjorn N23992.
- Norway: the walrus Freya, star of the Oslo fjord, was euthanized