The Future Of Polar Bears, In One Photograph

It's all in the photo.

Wildlife photographer Kerstin Langenberger recently captured this image of an emaciated polar bear off the shores of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

"Only few times I have seen beautifully fat mothers with beautifully fat young. Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females - like this one here," Langenberger writes in the caption of her photo.

In the Arctic, polar bears face a grim scenario due to climate change.

Rising temperatures have caused sea ice to melt. This sea ice is where polar bears hunt seals. Without it, the bears have turned to other, less abundant food sources on land such as snow geese and caribou.

But "there is simply not enough to eat on land to support so many large bears,"

biologist Ian Stirling told the National Post.

As a result, some polar bears end up going hungry. Tragically, Langenberger's photo seems to support that claim.

There are about 3,000 polar bears in Svalbard, and about 20,000 to 25,000 in the world. But there's great debate over their future: While some scientists say it's exceptionally bleak, others claim that some polar bear populations are actually stable.

If the picture above is any indication, though, the future looks sadly grim.

Follow Kerstin Langenberger on Facebook. Below are some of her stunning images.