Footage of a full-grown polar bear with “T-34” spray-painted in black on its side has left wildlife experts in Russia scratching their heads as to who or why branded the animal this way.
The T-34 was a legendary Soviet tank that played a crucial role in Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War 2, which has led some experts to believe that the text spray-painted on the polar bear spotted in Arctic Russia was nothing more than a poor military-themed joke. As to who would stoop so low as to spray-paint a polar bear and thus affect its ability to hunt for prey by virtually making it impossible for it to blend with its environment, that’s even harder to answer. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that scientists would ever do such a thing, and on the other, whoever did it must have tranquilized is beforehand.
“I don’t know the details of which region, district, or vicinity this [footage] was taken,” Sergey Kavry, a member of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said. “If it’s a military lettering theme… that is some kind of perverse disrespect for history.”
Daria Buyanova, press officer for WWF Russia, told the BBC that the footage of the spray-painted polar bear had caused quite a shock within the organization and that the “T-34” inscription looked “like a bad joke”.
According to scientist Anatoly Kochnev, the fact that the lettering was so evenly spray-painted and the characters appeared to be of roughly the same size is an indication that the bear must have been sedated or at least unable to move while it was spray-painted.
Kochnev added that it could take weeks for the paint to wear off and could cause serious feeding problems for the polar bear, which relies on its white coat to blend with its surrounding and get close to prey.
Russian authorities are currently investigating the case, but so far the only theory is that the bizarre stunt was carried out by locals in Russia’s remote Novaya Zemlya region frustrated about the growing presence of polar bears in several towns and villages.