Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Who's That Pokemon - Unova Edition: Cubchoo/Beartic.

Usually, I try to avoid doing the "usual suspects" on this blog. By "usual suspects," I mean animals that every tree-hugging organization and its grandma are pimping. This is limited almost entirely to large, carnivorous mammals (with the occasional giant herbivore), so it's pretty easy to think outside of the box. People already know most of those animals, so, wonderful though they may be, I tend to avoid them.

That said, it's really about time that this blog covered the inspiration for Cubchoo and Beartic: the polar bear.


Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are giant, white bears that typically feed on seals, whale carcasses, and sometimes human garbage. Despite being born on land, they spend most of their time at sea, swimming and/or waiting for seals to poke their heads above water. They live only in the Arctic Circle, not the Antarctic, so any images you see of penguins and polar bears chillin' in the same place is completely fake. I'm looking at you, Coke.

American culture in particular has this weird dual stance when it comes to bears. On one hand, the bear - any bear - could rip your arm off with its claws, teeth, or both. On the other, awwwww, lookit those cute widdle ears and that fluffy-wuffy fur! And that little bobby tail! Never mind the hundreds of pounds of teeth, claws, and muscle. We find bears unbearably cute. By default, that makes them among the most marketable of the "usual suspects." (Pokemon actually addressed this side of bear-hugging in one anime episode featuring Teddiursa, but it's a minor point.)

Polar bears are the largest land carnivores period. They're twice as large as a Siberian tiger. Males are bigger than females, with the largest specimen weighing 1,002 kg - a little over 2,000 pounds in U.S. measurements. The paws can spread a foot from toe to toe in large adults. Did we mention that this bear has the most thoroughly carnivorous teeth of any bear? Watch this magnificent animal from a distance.

The polar bear is also warmer than your average bear.  Not only does it have a thick layer of fat like many animals that live in cold regions, but the bear has more fur than normal - even on the paws! The skin beneath the bear's translucent fur is actually black. No, I don't know what brave soul decided to shave a polar bear and find out what color the skin was for themselves, but they're probably missing a limb.

The polar bear is now officially on the "vulnerable" list, but may be too little, too late depending upon whom you ask. Oil drilling in Alaska, along with several other harmful environmental practices, is still perfectly legal. As one conservation group put it, "the bear's in the E.R., and they're just leaving it to die." Other people insist that the bear is in no danger at all. The polar bear's case is not something simple like "don't shoot the wolves" or "Chinese medicine kills tigers." There are a number of factors that will likely soon place the polar bear in the same situation as the scimitar-horned oryx: Only alive in captivity with an off-chance of being reintroduced to the wild. In the case of the polar bear, however, there will be no wild left for it to return to. Enjoy real-live Cubchoo like Knut while you can.

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