Learning from the polar bear

by Robert Peroni

Was bleibt? (Ausgabe I/2016)

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A polar bear. Illustration: Stephanie F. Scholz


The polar bear - "Nanoq" - is a special animal in Greenland. On the national coat of arms it is depicted with a raised left paw. Greenlanders believe it to be left-handed and as lovable as a small dog – as long as it’s not hungry. Twenty years ago, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of polar bears but the population has been recovering for some time now, contrary to fears that climate change will shrink the ice and thus its habitat. A hunting quota was also introduced in 2006. In 2015, 140 polar bears were allowed to be hunted in Greenland. The polar bear hunt is long and arduous. You follow its trail for days and nights. If the hunt is successful, you take the killed polar bear by both ears, look it in the face and apologise.

The hunter says: "You are my example of life, my mother and father animal.  But today I was stronger and I am hungry. I'm sorry I had to kill you." The Greenlanders have learned from the bears how to survive in the snow. The igloos resemble the caves of the animals. You use every last bit of a hunted polar bear. The fur, which stores the warmth of the sparse light for a long time in winter, is used to for boots and to make gloves, hats and trousers. The meat has to be cooked for three hours and tastes like veal and a little bit like fish.

Translated by Jess Smee



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