By ANTHONY JOHNSON-WALSHPosted Aug 24, 2018 10:50:55WOLVERINES have been called in to help in a bid to keep a rare marine species alive during the Antarctic winter.
More than 100 scientists from around the world are being asked to come together for a “research expedition” to the South Pole, where a polar bear has been sighted since last week.
The polar bear, which has been dubbed “Gambia tourism”, is the last surviving member of the critically endangered species.
It was thought to be extinct for hundreds of years, but a sighting last week led conservationists to believe it had been spotted for the first time in over a century.
The South Pole Expedition will be conducted by scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division, the University of New South Wales, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and WWF Australia.
It is the first Antarctic expedition since 2006 when an Australian team found the elusive beast.
“The Antarctic ecosystem is fragile and fragile species are in urgent need of protection and recovery,” said WWF’s chief executive David Goulburn.
“It is vital that our Antarctic wildlife and people are protected and we can ensure that the Gambia tourism is an effective conservation tool for the long term.”
The team, which includes scientists from a number of universities and universities across Australia, will be onsite in the Antarctic for at least six months to gather data and collect samples.
“We will use our scientific and technical expertise to study the behaviour of the Gambian polar bear and to assess the viability of the polar bear for human consumption in South Africa,” the Antarctic Division said in a statement.
“It is a crucial part of the conservation of the South Antarctic ecosystem that we understand the behaviour and physiology of these critically endangered animals, and we are determined to bring the Gambias tourism to the attention of the world’s conservation community.”
Scientists will use satellite imagery to measure the animal’s body temperature, the humidity in its fur and its salivary gland.
The Antarctic Division is also planning to conduct fieldwork and a research cruise.
“This expedition is the culmination of the work we are doing for Gambia, but it is also the start of something bigger,” the statement said.
“In addition to the exploration and research, we are keen to share our expertise and knowledge with the international community, as well as with the world as a whole, to help understand the importance of the Antarctic environment for our species and our society.”
Gambias tourism is a unique venture, as it is the only non-native species of polar bear in the world.
It will be a new venture for WWF.
The organization has been conducting research on polar bears in the Southern African country since 2002.
In February 2018, WWF announced a plan to reintroduce the species to Gambia.
It was the first step towards that goal.
The group is now asking international and regional partners to help them reintroduce Gambias to the island nation.
“Our goal is to see Gambias return to the Gambi island, so that it can thrive,” WWF Africa’s director of programmes, Simon Tumas, said in the statement.
The team has been travelling to the south of the country since June.
It has spent a total of 20 days in Gambia so far.