Footage of a polar bear with “T-34” spray-painted on its side was recently shared on social media in Russia.
Wildlife experts commented on this baffling video and pointed out the detrimental effects. A scientist at the Institute of Biological Problems of the North, Anatoly Kochnev, said it could take a few weeks for the inscription to wear off. The paint could potentially inhibit the animal’s success in hunting due to its inability to blend in with its surroundings.
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Sergey Kavry, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) member, posted the video to Facebook explaining that it was shared on a WhatsApp group for indigenous people of the Chukotka region in Russia. BBC reached out to the press officer of WWF Russia, Daria Buyanova, and he said the writing on the bear “looks like a bad joke.”
Many people on Facebook have commented on the video saying they believe the inscription is related to the T-34 Russian tank. The tank played an important role in the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II.
As it turns out, scientists are responsible for the marking and T-34 is a grid reference representing a certain area of the Arctic archipelago. According to The Siberian Times, the bear was marked with ‘safe-paint’ by a team of specialists from the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution. The animal had a habit of visiting the dumps in Novaya Zemlya, a place where “dump bears” have been a problem in the past.
The bear was moved away from the area, after being sedated and marked, in hopes that it would not return to the dump. The marking will allow experts and locals to recognize the bear if it comes back. The paint will wear off within two weeks.