Fears for polar bear's safety after graffiti scrawled on its coat in Russia

The characters are a reference to a Russian tank.
The characters are a reference to a Russian tank. Photo credit: Facebook

There are grave fears for a polar bear seen with graffiti scrawled on its coat in Russia.

Video footage of the bear was shared online, and appears to show the letters "T-34" written in black on the animal.

But experts say the "bad joke" may prevent the animal from being able to camouflage itself while hunting and put its life in danger.

The video was uploaded to Facebook by Sergey Kavry, a World Wildlife Federation (WWF) employee based in Russia's far east. He said he had been given the video through a chat group on Whatsapp. The characters "T-34" are a reference to a Soviet WW2 tank. 

In posting the video, Kavry wrote that the bear would no longer be able to "hunt discreetly."  

"From starvation, it will begin to take prey, die itself or cripple others. He will begin to enter the village," he wrote in Russia, reports Global News.

Anatoly Kochnev, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told BBC News that it was likely the paint would eventually wash off, but that in the meantime the animal would struggle to camouflage itself, something that is highly necessary in the Arctic's snow.

Kochnev also said it was highly probable that the bear would have been sedated while being painted since "the characters are evenly written and are all the same size".

Daria Buyanova, of WWF in Russia, told BBC the footage was "quite a shock" and that it "looks like a bad joke".

Russian media have speculated that the animal may have been targeted by angry locals who are facing an increase in the number of bears coming into local communities.

Last year officials in Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago with a population of 3000 in the north of Russia, declared a state of emergency after 50 polar bears set up camp in the there and started foraging for food in the local rubbish dump.

Experts are now trying to determine where the video came from and locate the bear.

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