MANILA - Filipino wildlife photographer Noel Guevarra did not expect that his first encounter with a polar bear would be while one of the creatures was crossing the road.
Guevarra, who has made a name for his underwater photos of marine life, said he wanted to see polar bears in their natural habitat.
While working with an international environmental organization Greenpeace, he learned that if he wanted to see the bears, he needed to do it as soon as possible.
"If I wanted to see polar bears I have to do it now kasi nga because of climate change," Guevarra said in an interview with DZMM Teleradyo.
Last year, Guevarra went to the Arctic town of Churchill, Manitoba in Canada. He went in October, the month when Arctic ice began to form, as this was when polar bears started gathering in Churchill.
Bears wait for the sea ice to form so they can hunt seals on the open water. Seals are the polar bears main food source, explained Guevarra.
The town of Churchill is deemed as the polar bear capital of the world.
"Sasakay ka lang ng kotse tapos a few minutes away from the town makakakita ka na po ng polar bear," Guevarra said.
He was expecting his first encounter with a polar bear to be "grand" but after just a few minutes on the road, their driver stopped and pointed to a polar bear across the road.
The animal then nonchalantly crossed the road while the driver stopped the vehicle.
"Ang galing, sobrang galing," he said about his first encounter with a member of the largest bear species in the world.
Scientists have warned that polar bears are at risk of disappearing as melting Arctic sea ice makes hunting prey a challenge.
Temperatures in the Arctic have been rising twice as fast as the global average, according to scientists, endangering wildlife habitats in the region.
Guevarra is selling prints of his photographs to raise awareness about the plight of polar bears.
"Di natin alam na yung mga bagay-bagay na ginagawa natin dito, malaki ang epekto sa Arctic."