Ursus maritimus


Ursus maritimus


Historically hunting was the major threat facing polar bears, causing a drastic population decline. Hunting is now strictly regulated. The threats caused by global warming are now the main concern, but because humans are causing the problem, humans can fix it. This means all of us, individuals, communities, businesses and governments. If present emissions of greenhouse gasses are significantly reduced the polar bear and arctic habitat can be saved.

Polar bears are native to the Arctic, they are divided into 19 subpopulations, 3 of which are in decline and are at risk of further decline due to climate change. The word `Arctic’ means with bear and `Antarctic’ means without bear. Polar bears are fantastically well adapted to their extremely harsh environment, for example their white coat scatters and reflects light providing excellent camouflage, and it’s also very thick for good insulation and waterproof! Not only this but their skin under their white coat is black, excellent for absorbing and retaining heat.

Working in association with Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Polar Bears International (PBI), YWPF’s Project Polar is YWP and YWPF’s flagship project. It combines all three key objectives, conservation, welfare and education working towards saving and improving the welfare of one of the most iconic species – the polar bear. Project Polar is an innovative habitat for polar bears and a dynamic programme for their conservation and welfare. It is also a centre for research to help bears in the wild and in other zoos around the world.

Polar Bears Vulnerable


Affected by: Habitat Loss & Climate Change

Climate change is the number one threat facing polar bears. A polar bear’s hunting and eating patterns completely depend on Arctic sea ice!

If the Arctic sea ice continues to shrink at this rate, we could see the Arctic devoid of Summer sea ice by 2050 and polar bears extinct before the turn of the Century!



Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation are proud supporters of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and Polar Bears International. Both organisations work hard to to find ways of improving conservation actions for species impacted by climate change.


The Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation has been a key player in working with the IUCN to produce a landmark report that warns of the ‘increasingly severe’ impact on wildlife from shifting weather patterns. The hard-hitting study, issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), defines the threat to biodiversity around the globe with natural habitat disappearing and many species pushed to the brink of extinction.

The ground breaking guidelines is aimed at pooling scientific knowledge to help conservation campaigners and projects protect the environment. It will be a major weapon in the battle to ensure species are not lost because of climate change. A partnership between the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation and the Climate Change Specialist Group of the IUCN – which consists of more than 20 of the world’s leading scientists – has been crucial for the production of the guidelines.

“To develop effective species conservation plans, you need to work out how the species is being impacted by climate change, and how this will play out in the future. The IUCN Guidelines for Assessing Species’ Vulnerability to Climate Change present the combined knowledge and experience of more than thirty scientists from around the world and can be used for any species – from polar bears to puffins and wildflowers”

“We are extremely glad to be partnering with the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We recognise the incredibly valuable role the park plays in helping people to understand climate change and how to combat it, and we greatly appreciate working together to ensure that the guidelines reach those who need them.”Dr Wendy Foden, Chair of the IUCN SSC Climate Change Specialist Group


In 2016, YWPF supported a vital research project looking into the effects of climate change on polar bears’ denning behaviour. Female polar bears dig dens to give birth, once the cubs are old and strong enough they will follow their mother out of the den onto the sea ice to hunt.

However, recent human caused climate change has melted massive amounts of sea ice. Mother bears rely on the fat rich food source of seals after months of fasting, without the Arctic sea ice mother bears cannot hunt for seals.

The lack of sea ice and warm temperatures in the region last year are sobering and an indication of how fast conditions are changing in the Arctic. The rapid pace points to the need for swift action that will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions-improving conditions for polar bear mothers, cubs, and all of us.

Svalbard Denning Project