Over 150 polar bears live in the Medvezhyi Islands Nature Reserve
© Press center of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in Moscow

Over 150 polar bears live in the Medvezhyi Islands Nature Reserve

The second stage of the polar bear census has been completed in the Medvezhyi Islands Nature Reserve (aka the Bear Islands Nature Reserve) in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Using Orlan-10 long-range unmanned aerial vehicles, scientists received more than 25,000 images and processed them with a specially trained neural network.

Artificial intelligence produced the preliminary result: more than 150 polar bears. The exact number of individuals and the distribution of polar bear populations throughout the reserve will be determined during subsequent data processing. Also, the collected materials will make it possible to give a preliminary assessment of accumulated environmental damage.

“At the moment, there is no area in the world where this kind of research is being carried out. There is also no data on how climate change and anthropogenic factors impact Arctic ecosystems, or on the dynamics of change in the characteristics of polar bear populations, which confirms the importance of regular monitoring,” noted expedition leader Ilya Chernook, development director of Ecofactor Ecological Center.

After processing the images recorded during the expedition, scientists plan to create a cartographic website for the reserve. They will also develop a five-year program of regular monitoring of territories using UAVs to assess population sizes and the consequences of anthropogenic impact.

“Taking a census of animals in the Arctic Medvezhyi Islands Nature Reserve is an important stage in the census of polar bears listed in the Red Book. Last winter, scientists counted 864 bears on Wrangel Island. They also plan to determine population numbers in the ​​Herald Island and Wrangel Island’s sea area. These data will allow us to understand how many polar bears live in the Russian Arctic and to plan measures to protect them,” Minister of Natural Resources Alexander Kozlov said.