Imperiled by Shrinking Ice and Trophy Hunters

A disturbing report, with a malevolent twist, on the plight of polar bears in the Arctic—from The Independent:

The appalling fate of the polar bear, symbol of the Arctic

Polar bears – the very symbol of the Arctic’s looming environmental disaster – are crashing towards extinction as a result of global warming, the US government has found. The admission, the result of a massive investigation by the Bush administration, could force the President finally to take action against climate change.

The development comes at the end of the most momentous week in the human history of the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else in the world. Satellite observations have revealed that its ice has shrunk to much its lowest ever level, raising fears that it had reached a “tipping point” where it would melt irreversibly, disappearing altogether in summer in less than 25 years, with incalculable global consequences.

And a separate Independent on Sunday investigation has found that polar bears are being shot in alarming numbers by rich trophy hunters from the US, Europe and Japan, even as their increasingly fragile habitat melts beneath them. Campaigners know that climate change and pollution are the biggest threats to polar bear survival, but believe that stopping sports hunting is symbolically important. Former US presidential candidate Senator John Kerry is leading the fight.

“It’s time to put the polar bear on the endangered species list, and give them a fighting chance at survival,” he said. “Not only must these bears contend with their home melting away, but they are also being hunted in the limited habitat they have left. It’s time to take responsibility for their survival.”….

American hunters exploit a loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that allows them to get licences to import polar bear trophies from Canada. Some 953 have been granted or applied for since 1994. Senator Kerry is now co-sponsoring with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe a proposed Polar Bear Protection Act in the US Senate that would stop the skins being imported.

At the same time comes the polar bear investigation – conducted by the US Geological Survey – which concluded that the world population would be cut by two-thirds by the middle of the century as the result of the melting of the ice. This is likely to be over-optimistic because, as the survey itself admits, it is based on estimates of the rate of the ice’s disappearance that fall far short of what is actually taking place. New evidence also suggests that chemical pollution, wafted up to the Arctic, is interfering with the bears’ abilities to reproduce. [full text]

The Humane Society of the United States has an electronic petition on its website where you may encourage your elected representatives to support the Polar Bear Protection Act. Please consider signing the petition.

One thought on “Imperiled by Shrinking Ice and Trophy Hunters

  1. Caution, caution, caution: the World Wildlife Fund’s study of Polar Bear populations indicates that most populations are stable, several are increasing and perhaps two smaller populations are decling a bit. There is very conflicting Greenland evidence for decreasing atmospheric temperatures. Canadian natives see a dramatic increase in Polar Bear populations, by the way. Intereting issues are never straight forward.

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