Photo: Kerstin Langenberger Photography

Photographer Kerstin Langenberger was shooting in Svalbard last month when she took this distressing photo of an emaciated polar bear.

Langenberger, who spends her life photographing the Arctic, says she is no stranger to seeing skinny or starving female polar bears.

I have seen bears in good shape – but I have also seen dead and starving polar bears

“I see the glaciers calving, retreating dozens to hundreds of meters every year. I see the pack ice disappearing in record speed. Yes, I have seen bears in good shape – but I have also seen dead and starving polar bears," she says on her Facebook Page.

"Bears walking on the shores, looking for food, bears trying to hunt reindeer, eating birds' eggs, moss and seaweed. And I realised that the fat bears are nearly exclusively males which stay on the pack ice all year long."

Photo: polar-kreuzfahrten.de

"The females, on the other hand, which den on land to give birth to their young, are often slim. With the pack ice retreating further and further north every year, they tend to be stuck on land where there's not much food."

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Polar bears are particularly endangered right now. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources have noticed a 30 per cent decline in polar bears in the last 45 years, mainly because they are losing their habitat as a result of melting sea ice.

It's only set to get worse - with sea ice coverage predicted to reduce even further in the next 50 to 100 years.