Chance to highlight plight of Arctic animals

It was with great consolation that I read that the Singapore Zoo has set up a memorial wall as part of its tribute to Singapore's beloved polar bear (Zoo staff pay tribute to Inuka; April 27).

Even though Inuka was a polar bear born and bred in tropical Singapore, and had never set foot in the Arctic, he can still be an ambassador for his fellow polar bears in the wild.

The public has expressed worries over the welfare of wild animals, like polar bears, which are kept in enclosed areas like zoos.

However, doing so gives scientists access to a small gene pool as they work to support the propagation of a species, should the wild population of that animal dip too close to extinction, just like what China has been doing with the giant panda.

And indeed, many studies have indicated that polar bears face an unprecedented reduction of their population and even a high risk of extinction in the wild due to the premature melting of sea ice, which is, in turn, caused by climate change (First polar bear born in Britain in 25 years; ST Online, March 17).

It is well-known that polar bears depend on sea ice to effectively hunt for seals, which are their most important source of food.

But documentaries have filmed polar bears scavenging or resorting to eating seaweed or seagulls' eggs in apparent desperation as the sea ice shrinks.

As we grieve Inuka's passing, we must also bear in mind the bleak plight faced by polar bears and other animals whose survival has been upset by our unsustainable burning of fossil fuels, agricultural practices and way of life.

Perhaps the zoo should also set up exhibitions, in addition to the memorial wall, to inform people of exactly what damage climate change is causing to the Arctic region, and to call for action to mitigate it.

There should also be a reminder that everyone must do his part to save the environment, be it recycling, switching to public transport or just by using less electricity.

This message could be reiterated on subsequent anniversaries of Inuka's death to remind the public that they are responsible for the upkeep of the planet and its biodiversity.

If we succeed in getting this message across to the public, Inuka would not have died in vain.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'Chance to highlight plight of Arctic animals'. Print Edition | Subscribe