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Little Polar Bears - Thorsten Milse

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THERE are few creatures more appealing than polar bear cubs but if it’s proof you want then you need look no further than Thorsten Milse’ book, Little Polar Bears, a compilation of outstanding images taken in Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park.

The park, which takes its name from the Cree word meaning “white bear”, covers an area of 11,475 kilometres and protects about 1,200 dens where females give birth to their cubs.

Even so, tracking the bears is by no means easy and requires endless patience and a determination to succeed in a hostile environment – one where temperatures frequently drop to below minus 40 degrees centigrade and icy winds whip up the snow, reducing visibility and creating hazardous drifts.

Yet the rewards could not be more worthwhile. Not only are the images beautiful to look at, Milse has also managed to capture moments of intimacy between mother and cubs that illustrate her unerring devotion, patience and tenderness – what looks to me very much like that thing we call love.

The images also tell a story – of the cubs first tentative steps outside the natal den, of play-filled days in the snow and the 60-kilometre-long trek to Hudson Bay where, after almost eight months of living solely off her own body reserves, the ravenous mother can once again find food.

But as well as polar bears, Milse has photographed some of the park’s other wildlife – caribou for instance – and to complete the picture, he has included images of the all-important trackers and even himself.

The images are accompanied by a lively and informative text that sadly also holds a stark warning – that unless the industrial nations of the world implement efficient measures to halt global warming, the future of the polar bear looks bleak.

With ice cover on the bay already significantly reduced, action must be taken sooner rather than later or these magnificent creatures and their beguiling young will be lost to us forever.

Hopefully, Milse’ superb images will stir the conscience. And superb they truly are. But you don’t have to take my word alone – one of the book’s many images was runner-up in the Animal Behaviour category of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition in 2005 and that, I think, just about says it all.

Little Polar Bears is a delightful book; one that will give lasting pleasure as indeed, will these beautiful creatures if only they are given the chance…..