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New Movie Boosts Campaign to Save Polar Bears

  • Zulima Palacio

Few people travel to the Arctic, but it's possible to see it up close without the long journey. Now, a new 3D IMAX movie about the Arctic is opening in the U.S. and, soon, around the world.

The movie, directed by Greg MacGillivray, is part of an international campaign to save the polar bears and their home.

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Polar bears are in trouble. Scientists say only 20,000 remain, and their long term survival could be at risk. The new IMAX movie, To the Arctic, is narrated by actress Meryl Streep.

The movie tells the story of the Arctic's endangered ecosystem - through a polar bear mother and her twin calves.

Award-winning nature photographer Florian Schulz has done a companion book. He says the purpose of the book and the film is to educate people about what's happening to the region.

“The polar bears won't survive without the ice, and, right now, scientists are predicting that by 2040 or 2050, somewhere in between, the sea ice in the summer will completely go away,” Schulz stated.

He spent 18 months in the Arctic living in a tent and traveling in a snowmobile with solar panels. "You have to let your equipment completely freeze, and then it will stay frozen. You can’t take it inside your sleeping bag or inside your tent because the condensation will go on top of it, and then the ice will build, and then you will not get rid of the ice anymore,” he said.

Handling equipment in below-zero temperatures and working with camera-shy wildlife were a serious challenge to the movie producers too. For example, an automated camera, camouflaged in white, caught a bear’s attention.

Schulz says one day a giant bear approached within seven meters of him. “We then shot a flair gun at the ground level so the bang was closer to the ground, and the bear understood that he should move on. That was definitely a scary moment,” he explained.

The movie and book are part of a larger project to protect the polar bears and the Arctic.

Suzanne Apple is with the World Wildlife Fund. "This area we are working on is called the last ice area in northern Canada, Greenland and Denmark. Our research shows this is the ice that will stay the longest" she said. "So we are hoping to protect and preserve that.”

But the growing interest in minerals and oil and gas exploration could present an added challenge to the Arctic - and the polar bears.

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