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Captivating photo of polar bear snoozing on ice wins prestigious award

“Climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope," said the Wildlife Photographer of the Year winner.
Polar bear napping on an iceberg
Posted at 7:07 PM, Feb 07, 2024

Check out this pawsitively adorable snap of a polar bear catching some z's on an iceberg.

It stole the hearts of thousands, and it snagged the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award.

British photographer Nima Sarikhani's "Ice Bed" won the top spot in the 59th annual Natural History Museum of London contest with a whopping 75,000 votes, beating about 50,000 other (also beautiful) entries from over 100 countries, according to a press release by the museum.

After three days of searching on the Svalbard archipelago of Norway, Sarikhani finally stumbled upon a couple of bears. He began following the majestic creatures, and after eight hours, the little fella got tired and started to craft a makeshift bed with his sharp claws. Sarikhani saw an opportunity and took it!

“I am so honored to have won this year's People’s Choice award for Wildlife Photography of the Year, the most prestigious wildlife photography competition. This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it,” Sarikhani told the museum. “Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope. There is still time to fix the mess we have caused.” 

According to the museum, Svalbard is home to one of the 19 global populations of polar bears, with approximately 300 bears residing in the area. However, due to global warming, the bear's habitat in Svalbard is melting away as temperatures have risen by 3-5 degrees Celsius since the 1970s.

“The period with sea ice over shallower water in much of the area is now much shorter than it was a few decades ago,” Jon Aars, a researcher with the Norwegian Polar Institute, told the museum. “The loss of sea ice also affects other aspects of their lifestyle. For example, the bears often no longer reach areas in the East that have traditionally been important for building dens. Instead, the bears are now often found hundreds of kilometers closer to the North pole, where the sea ice tends to be.”

For now, Svalbard’s polar bear population is stable, but the changing temperatures could affect the numbers in the future, the museum warns.