SBS’s flagship current affairs program Dateline returns tonight with a story from a small town on the edge of the Arctic Circle where a charismatic local called Leo is keeping his Inuit village safe from polar bears.
There is an increasing problem for communities in the Arctic Circle faced with climate change. With the Arctic Circle warming twice as fast as anywhere else in the world, the melting conditions are disrupting food cycles and bringing Polar bears into small towns like Arviat, increasing the chances of encounters for its residents.
Arviat is a remote town of about 2,500 people and it’s surprising to see how the locals have adapted to life in the Artic extremes.
Leo Ikakhik has been one of their polar bear monitors for the past 5 years and each night he sets off into below freezing conditions armed with his 12 gauge shot gun loaded with rubber bullets with the aim to send the bears away from Arviat.
“Once they get hold of you, you’re history”, Leo tells Dateline’s Aaron Thomas.
Leo’s aim is to protect the bears from people as much as people from the bears – and that’s just one way how this community has adapted.
Shelagh Crookes, a local hotel manager, shows Aaron a house that people can rent to watch polar bears outside the dining room window. “Polar bears are the most amazing creatures.”
Dateline, Australia’s longest-running international current affairs program, returns for another season on SBS on Tuesday, 16 February at 9.30pm.