INCREDIBLE JOURNEYS WITH STEVE LEONARD: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE ICE BEAR
ABC TV - Sunday, 07 October 2007 07:30PM
Steve travels to frozen Svalbard, a group of islands midway between Norway and the North Pole high above the Arctic Circle, to follow the fate of a mature 23-year-old mother polar bear named Aurora and her tiny cub. "No one has tried to do this," says Steve. Luckily for him, scientists have fitted Aurora with a satellite-tracking collar, so they can follow her.
As soon as our mother emerges from her den in spring, the pressure is on to hunt ringed seals, the best high-fat diet for mother and cub survival. But ringed seals are found on the sea ice, and as summer approaches this highly dynamic habitat is melting, drifting and retreating far to the north, right from under our polar bears feet. Soon the ice will be gone, and if there is no ice, there is no food and the cub will perish. Our mother has to come up with a strategy to keep her family alive: undertake a massive northerly 'ice-migration' with cub in tow, or stay put in the fjords of the south? Both decisions are fraught with danger.
To find out if Aurora made the right decision, Steve and his team board a small boat and embark on their own perilous journey to try to relocate her in the vastness of this spectacular frozen wilderness. After five days of hard trekking, Steve and the team catch up with her in an emotional face-to-face final encounter. "Aurora's travelled around 3,000 miles, and her cub's been with her all the time," says Steve. As he prepares to head home, his thoughts are still with the bears. "My journey is over, but Aurora and her cub don't have a choice," he says. "They'll have to trudge on, endlessly searching for their next meal."
A BBC/Animal Planet co-production. Presenter: Steve Leonard. Episode 4 Producer/Series Producer: Martin Hughes-Games. Executive Producer: Sara Ford.