Polar bears are being forced to eat one another because of climate change, a Russian scientist has claimed.
He revealed the Arctic animals are resorting to cannibalism as melting ice and fossil fuel extraction destroys their habit.
"Cases of cannibalism among polar bears are a long-established fact, but we're worried that such cases used to be found rarely while now they are recorded quite often," Ilya Mordvintsev said at a conference in St Petersburg, reports Interfax news agency.
"We state that cannibalism in polar bears is increasing."
Rising temperatures are melting the ice to unsurvivable low levels, forcing polar bears out of the areas they've always used to hunt and onto shore areas where food is more scarce.
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The bears, which number between 22,000 and 31,000 in the wild, typically use sea ice to hunt seals swimming in the water below.
Arctic ice levels have decreased at least by 40% in the last 25 years.
A senior researcher at Moscow's Severtsov Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution, Mordvintsev believes the bears have no choice but to turn on each other because there's no other food.
Large male bears are attacking females and cubs because they're easy targets, he said, and mothers are even eating their own babies.
Increased human presence in the Arctic could also be to blame, with previous polar bear hunting grounds decimated by ships carrying LNG (liquefied natural gas).
"The Gulf of Ob was always a hunting ground for the polar bear. Now it has broken ice all year round," he said, connecting the change to active gas extraction on the huge Yamal peninsula bordering the Gulf of Ob, and the launch of an Arctic LNG plant.
Fellow Russian scientist Vladimir Sokolov, who has led several expeditions with the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, said there has been abnormally warm weather on Spitsbergen Island to the north and this has also affected polar bears.
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