Are There Polar Bears in Antarctica?

Are there polar bears in Antarctica, a spectacular land of ice, framed by frigid waters and home to a plethora of hardy creatures? Read on to find out!

So do Polar Bears Exist in Antarctica??

Antarctica is home to a kaleidoscope of incredibly fascinating creatures, but polar bears are NOT among them. Although, given the harsh climate and abundance of icy fields, you could be forgiven for thinking they do. From a wildlife-loving perspective, however, the more interesting question would be: could polar bears live in Antarctica?

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that we were to smuggle a few fluffy polar bears aboard one of our expedition cruise ships to Antarctica (now wouldn’t make that for a fun adventure?! – not that we’d ever do that) and set them loose in the White Continent. What would happen? Could they survive? What would the consequences be on Antarctica and all the other animals, if all of a sudden a brand new apex predator were to be introduced?

Polar Bears Exist in Antarctica: Penguins and polar bear on ice

Could polar bears and Emperor Penguins share the ice? Photo credit: Pixabay.

It may seem like a silly question at first yet you may be surprised to learn it’s one that’s actually been asked seriously in the last few years. As polar bears face an uncertain future due to their diminishing habitat (they are currently listed as endangered) the question of ‘how do we save the polar bears?’ has given rise to a few suggestions of assisted migration of these majestic animals, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

According to Steven C. Amstrup – an American zoologist who’s nothing short of obsessed with polar bears (he’s won several prizes for his extensive conservation work) and is the chief scientist at Polar Bears International – polar bears would thrive quite well in Antarctica yet their flourishing would be very short lived.

Polar bear on ice

Ice is ice.. Right? Photo credit: Pixabay.

Arctic VS Antarctic: not all ice was created equal

It’s interesting to discover that although the Arctic and Antarctic region may appear to be almost identical (lots of ice and snow, and a Pole in the middle!) their topographical differences have created a plethora of unique habitats and wildlife. There are certainly plenty of seals and penguins on which the polar bears could feed in Antarctica and, it should be noted, the feasting would be rather abundant. At least for a little while.

Colony of emperor penguins on the ice

Emperor Penguin colony…. or polar bear buffet?! Photo credit: Pixabay.

In a continent where neither penuign nor seal fears a land predator (whales and leopard seals hunt them only in water) both are blissfully unafraid and very approachable when out of the water. The fact that you can walk right up to a penguin in Antarctica is arguably one of the most enticing prospects for all our cruise ship guests (although protocol dictates you wait for them to come up to you). So no matter how alert and speedy they are in the water, they turn to placid, curious creatures when on land.

penguins and human close to each other on ice

Up close and personal encounters make Antarctica a unique wildlife destination. Photo credit: Pixabay.

And let’s remember that penguins, which are normally torpedoes in the water, are comically clumsy when they try to rush on land…

Penguin falling over on ice

We couldn’t even imagine a ‘polar bear VS seal’ battle. That would probably be the shortest combat ever…

seal on the side on the beach with rocks in the background

Hang on while I just stretch the hamstring here… then I’ll take you on! Photo credit: Pixabay.

Seals and penguins would indeed make for exceptionally easy prey for the new on-land beasts. So easy, in fact, that Amstrup surmises the long-term effects on the Antarctic environment to be quite catastrophic. Introduce a healthy number of polar bears in Antarctica, and within just a few years they will have probably gobbled up every seal and penguin within a gazillion mile radius. And then, left with no other food source, the polar bears will also fade into oblivion. Sigh.

Back to the drawing board then…

Join us on a wildlife extravaganza tour of Antarctica on an expedition cruise ship, and you’ll enjoy unforgettable up close and personal encounters with some of the most fascinating animals on earth.
No polar bears. Promise!

Author: Laura Pattara

“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”