Footage shared via social media of a polar bear in Russia with a black “T-34” spray-painted on its side has vexed experts.
Researchers warned the prank could affect the bear’s ability to blend in with its environment and hunt for food. The T-34 was a tank that performed a crucial part in World War Two in the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. The video was posted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) nature organization member Sergey Kavry on Facebook, and then shared by news outlets.
Mr. Kavry explained the footage had been shared with a group on WhatsApp for the autochthonous persons of the Chukotka region in the far East of Russia, and that scientists tracking wildlife in the vicinity would not have branded the animal in such a fashion. “I don’t know the details of which region, district, or vicinity this [footage] was taken,” he stated, furthering: “If it’s a military lettering theme… that is some kind of perverse disrespect for history.”
WWF Russia’s press officer, Daria Buyanova, told reporters that seeing the photos was “quite a shock” and that the writing “looks like a bad joke”. An Institute of Biological Problems of the North scientist, Anatoly Kochnev, suggested it was highly unlikely that the beast could have been spray-painted without it first being sedated. He said the animal could not have been on the move, or at least must have been very still whilst it was being stained because “the characters are evenly written and are all the same size”.
Mr. Kochnev added it could take weeks for the paint to wash off, and this could induce problems for the polar bear, which depends on its white coat in the Arctic snow and ice when hunting prey. Russian media guessed that the stunt was connected to local ire at a spike in the number of polar bears making their way into Arctic Russia communities. Experts are trying now to uncover the video’s origin.
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