Spray-painted polar bear sparks alarm in Russia

A polar bear daubed with the painted slogan T-34, the name of a Soviet era tank. (Social Media)
Updated 04 December 2019

Spray-painted polar bear sparks alarm in Russia

  • Local media reported that scientists had marked the bear because it was scavenging for food near a human-inhabited area in the Arctic region
  • Polar bears regularly visit areas inhabited by humans in Arctic Russia to search for food, often in rubbish tips

MOSCOW: A video showing a polar bear daubed with painted slogan T-34, the name of a Soviet era tank, has caused alarm in Russia with experts saying it could prevent the bear hunting.
Local media reported Tuesday that scientists had marked the bear because it was scavenging for food near a human-inhabited area in the Arctic region.
The video was posted on Facebook on Monday by Sergei Kavry, who works for the World Wildlife Fund in the Chukotka region.
He said he was concerned at the large letters daubed on the side of the bear, seen plodding through snow.
“Why? Why? He won’t be able to hunt inconspicuously,” Kavry wrote. Kavry said he found the video on a WhatsApp social media group and did not know where it was shot.
A senior researcher at the Institute of Biological Problems of the North in far eastern Russia, Anatoly Kochnev, told RIA Novosti news agency he did not know where the video was shot, but the letters could have been painted on by “jokers.”
“At first, until he cleans himself off, it will be hard for him to hunt,” the scientist said.


Severpress news agency, based in the Yamalo-Nenetsky region, some 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) northeast of Moscow, reported that the marks were put on by an expedition of scientists on Novaya Zemlya, a remote and sparsely populated Arctic archipelago.
It cited experts as saying a team of scientists from Moscow went to investigate a polar bear that was raiding a settlement’s rubbish tip and they marked the bear to see if it returned.
The agency quoted Ilya Mordvintsev, a senior researcher from Moscow’s Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution, as saying the expedition members caught the bear and sedated it.
Finding the animal was well-fed and therefore would not attack humans, they took it to a safe distance from the settlement and marked it with paint that would wash off in two weeks, to see if it returned to scavenge, he said.
The video was apparently shot last week, the agency reported.
Polar bears regularly visit areas inhabited by humans in Arctic Russia to search for food, often in rubbish tips.
In February in Novaya Zemlya, officials sounded the alarm over an “invasion” of 52 bears in the main settlement there.
The bears are affected by global warming with melting Arctic ice forcing them to spend more time on land where they compete for food.

 


At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 image, Lizzie Chimiugak looks on at her home in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2020

At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census

  • The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska: Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in the windswept western wilds of Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and on Tuesday she became the first person counted in the US Census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
“Elders that were before me, if they didn’t die too early, I wouldn’t have been the first person counted,” Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup’ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. “Right now, they’re considering me as an elder, and they’re asking me questions I’m trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder.”
The decennial US census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the US purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the Internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Steven Dillingham, director of the census bureau, conducted the first interview after riding on the back of a snowmobile from the airport to Chimiugak’s home.
“The 2020 Census has begun,” he told reporters after conducting the first interview with Chimiugak, a process that lasted about five minutes. “Toksook Bay isn’t the easiest place to get to, and the temperature is cold. And while people are in the village, we want to make sure everyone is counted.”
Dillingham was hours late getting to Toksook Bay because weather delayed his flight from the hub community of Bethel, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) away. Conditions didn’t improve, and he spent only about an hour in the community before being rushed back to the airport.
After the count, a celebration took place at Nelson Island School and included the Nelson Island High School Dancers, an Alaska Native drum and dance group. Later, the community took over the commons area of the high school with a potluck of Alaska Native foods, including seal, moose and goose soups, herring roe served with seal oil and baked salmon.
Robert Pitka, tribal administrator for Nunakauyak Traditional Council, hopes the takeaway message for the rest of the nation is of Yup’ik pride.
“We are Yup’ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong in our culture and our traditions and that our Yup’ik language is very strong,” he said.
For Chimiugak, she has concerns about climate change and what it might do to future generations of subsistence hunters and fishers in the community, and what it will do to the fish and animals. She talked about it with others at the celebration.
“She’s sad about the future,” he eldest son Paul said.
Chimiugak was born just after the start of the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere in western Alaska, her daughter Katie Schwartz of Springfield, Missouri, said. Lizzie was one of 10 siblings born to her parents, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and traveled with two or three other families that would migrate together, her son said.
Lizzie and her 101-year-old sister from Nightmute, Alaska, survive.
In 1947 Lizzie married George Chimiugak, and they eventually settled in Toksook Bay after the town was founded in 1964 by residents of nearby Nightmute. There are five surviving children.
He worked maintenance at the airport. She did janitorial work at the old medical clinic and babysat.
Like other wives, she cleaned fish, tanned hides and even rendered seal oil after her husband came home from fishing or hunting. Her husband died about 30 years ago.
She is also a woman of strong Catholic faith, and told her son that she saved his life by praying over him after he contracted polio.
For her own hobbies, she weaved baskets from grass and remains a member of the Alaska Native dance group that performed Tuesday. She dances in her wheelchair.
She taught children manners and responsibility and continued the oral tradition of telling them stories with a storyknife.
Chimiugak used a knife in the mud to illustrate her stories to schoolchildren. She drew figures for people or homes. At the end of the story, she’d use the knife to wipe away the pictures and start the next story with a clean slate of mud.
“She’s a great teacher, you know, giving us reminders of how we’re supposed to be, taking care of subsistence and taking care of our family and respecting our parents,” her granddaughter Alice Tulik said. “That’s how she would give us advice.”