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The Great Polar Bear Feast Commissioned

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The Great Polar Bear Feast, which unravels the story of an annual phenomenon that occurs on the north slope of the Arctic every September, is to air on Channel 4.

Every year, as many as 80 polar bears gather on the frozen shores of Barter Island, near the village of Kaktovik, to feast on the hunter-harvested bowhead whale remains. The gathering is highly unusual not least because polar bears are known as solitary predators, rarely if ever moving in a group.

Kaktovik is a small Inupiat hunting community. It in inaccessible by road, and locked in by frozen sea ice for nine months of the year. In September, however, it becomes the centre of polar bear studies as scientists and wildlife photographers descend on the town to observe the animals' unusual behaviour.

With more polar bears turning up at Kaktovik each year, scientists want to discover why this is happening. The film also reveals what happens to the inhabitants of the town when the whale bones are picked bare, and the polar bears head for the town.

The 1x60' show has access to the work of scientist Todd Atwood – the lead polar bear scientist for the US Geological Survey. He estimates there has been a 40% decline in the polar bears around the South Beaufort Sea since 2006, and is determined to find out why this has happened.

Each spring he heads out by helicopter to find polar bears and their cubs on the ice, tranquilizes them, assesses their health and fits GPS tracking collars – some with tiny video cameras attached. With the help of this 'Polar-Cam', he is able to track the bears through the subsequent months, getting closer to the truth about their lives.

Atwood's work will take viewers through the story of two polar bear mothers, Anyu and Nanook, who have to decide how to keep themselves and their cubs alive, by either staying on the shore and facing threats from humans, or heading north.

The Great Polar Bear Feast is made by Renegade Pictures. Alan Hayling is Executive Producer, with Andrew Graham-Brown as Producer Director. It has been commissioned for Channel 4 by Sara Ramsden.


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