The range states of the Polar Bear – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States – today signed a landmark declaration that will strengthen measures to conserve this iconic animal which is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
Posts Tagged ‘Polar’
Minister Aglukkaq Leads Canada’s International Efforts to Conserve Polar Bear. MOSCOW, Russia – December 6, 2013 – The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, met with counterparts in Moscow, Russia, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears. During the meeting, Range States agreed upon a joint declaration aimed at furthering the international conservation and management of polar bears.
Minister Aglukkaq to Meet with Polar Bear Range States in Russia. MOSCOW, Russia – December 2, 2013 – The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, will lead the Canadian delegation at the 40th Anniversary of the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears in Moscow, Russia, from December 4-6, 2013.
Climate change is thinning sea ice, cutting off the dwindling population of polar bears from their food source. Scientists predict that with ice-free season lengthening every year in west Hudson Bay, its polar bear population will collapse in 17 years
Churchill in northern Manitoba bills itself as the the polar bear capital of the world and its tourism-based economy depends on it. But as climate change forces the polar bears inland in search of food, attacks on humans are increasing. Can this small community continue to co-exist with the world’s largest land predator? Suzanne Goldenberg reports from Churchill where its bear alert programme uses guns, helicopters and a polar bear jail to manage the the creatures
The bears that gather around Churchill waiting for the waters in Hudson Bay to freeze over are the most studied on Earth. Scientists have tracked their decline, linked to climate change, for more than 20 years. Conservation officials have tagged most of them. Locals have given them names – though some of those admittedly are less than complimentary: one of the large adult males is known as Lardass.
From Tuesday, anyone with a web browser can make their own observations of the polar bears of Hudson Bay, through a series of live feeds installed by the group Explore.org at a number of locations around the town of Churchill and along the shores of the bay.
The sites were chosen for their vantage points over the polar bears’ typical routes as they undergo their annual migration from a summer of fasting on land to newly frozen sea ice.
The cameras were positioned: atop an enormous grain elevator in the Churchill port; inside a historic fur trading fort; on a research tower in a national park; at a tundra lodge; and on tundra buggies, the trailers mounted on monster truck-sized tyres used to transport tourists.
“At Explore.org we can’t solve global warming but our live cams can bring the world up close and personal with nature,” said Charlie Annenberg, founder of Explore.org. “Simply put, the citizens are now the scientists.”
The warming of the Arctic is extending the number of ice-free days in Hudson Bay, forcing the bears off the sea ice, and away from their main diet of ring seals, and on to the land.
“Over time, as they return to the ice later and later, they return to the ice in poorer condition every year,” said Martyn Obbard, a research scientist with the Ontario ministry of natural resources who studies the bears of southern Hudson Bay.
Capturing that journey on camera, and then live-streaming the video over the internet from a remote, sub-Arctic location, presents obvious challenges. There is no road system around Churchill, and no communications outside town. “It’s a cold place to work, the weather never co-operates and of course there are polar bears running around,” said BJ Kirschhoffer, director of field operations for Polar Bears International, who worked with the Explore.org crew to help install the cameras.
A few years ago, Kirschhoffer mounted a camera on a boom arm extending out of a tundra buggy. “It provided a low, eye-to-eye view with a polar bear, but could move up and out of the reach of the bear,” he said. The camera itself was mounted intside a protective plastic bubble.
“This bear just wandered over and the camera was low,” said Kirschhoffer. “I didn’t see it coming around the corner. It was very curious of the camera. It sniffed it for a moment. It opened its mouth, and then it put its canine teeth right on the plastic dome.”
By the time he could react and get to the controls to raise the boom, there were two puncture holes in the protective dome. “I still have the dome with the two little puncture holes in it, just perfectly sized for the canine teeth,” Kirschhoffer said.
A lack of sea ice, caused by global warming, meant the bear was unable to hunt seals and starved, according to an expert who had been monitoring the animal in Svalbard, Norway
This 16-year-old male polar bear died of starvation resulting from the lack of ice on which to hunt seals, according to Dr Ian Stirling, who has studied polar bears for almost 40 years with the Canadian Wildlife Service and the University of Alberta. (Click image to read more)
Ashley Cooper/Global Warming Images
Polar bear decision at the 16th Conference of Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Polar bear decision at the 16th Conference of Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). OTTAWA, Ont. â March 15, 2013 â Canadaâs Environment Minister, the Honourable Peter Kent, along with Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, today issued the following joint statement with regard to the polar bear decision at the 16th Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Damian Carrington in Bangkok
The bitter row is over the 600 or so of the polar species killed each year by Canadian hunters, most of which are exported as bear skin rugs, fangs or paws. Diplomatic relations became even frostier on Tuesday, when the European Union attempted to block the US proposal to outlaw the export trade, which is strongly supported by Russia.
The US is adamant the trade is unsustainable. “The best scientific evidence says two-thirds of the polar bear population will be gone by mid-century, so how can you have a sustainable commercial trade?” asked Dan Ashe, head of the US delegation to the 178-nation meeting of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) being held in Thailand.
Canada, home to about three-quarters of the world’s 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, is the only country that allows the export of polar bear products. Its delegates argue there is “insufficient scientific evidence” that polar bear populations will decline by more than half in the coming decades and that trade is “not detrimental to the species”. They say hunting and trading in polar bears is “integrally linked” with Inuit subsistence and culture.
All experts agree that the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is the greatest threat to polar bears, who need the ice to hunt seals. But Canada argues that the impact on polar bears of shrinking ice, which reached record low levels in 2012, is “uncertain”.
Nikita Ovsyanikov, a leading polar bear expert and member the Russian delegation, rejects all the Canadian arguments. “They are just not true,” he said. “Polar bears are struggling for survival already and exposing them to hunting will drive them to extinction.”
About 200 polar bears are illegally poached in Russia each year, Ovsyanikov added, with the pelts laundered into the legal market using false Canadian documentation. “The sale of Canadian certification has also now become a criminal business,” he said. Such certificates would be void if the US proposal is approved.
Conservation campaigners, including the Natural Resources Defence Council and Humane Society International, are concerned that as polar bears become more rare, their skins become more valuable. They cite a doubling of pelt prices in the last five years, with the best specimens fetching more than $ 12,000 each.
The status of the 19 sub-populations of polar bear has long been contentious as they are hard to survey, but while a few are growing, more are declining. Canada claims it adjusts hunt quotas each year to ensure sustainability, but critics point to a tripling of the quota for the Nunavit territory in 2011, against the advice of the federal government and the respected International Union for Conservation of Nature, which stated “even the present [allowable harvest] is unsustainable so an increase only makes the resulting overharvest even less sustainable.”
Nunavit groups said the high harvest was due to unusual ice conditions bring more bears within hunting range, and was not driven by high prices for pelts.
The UK appeared to have been left in the cold on Tuesday by a surprise EU proposal to supplant the US one and simply ask Canada to report the number of polar bears exported and provide further information on trade and populations. Before the summit, the UK’s wildlife minister Richard Benyon, along with EU states including Germany, Poland and Belgium, had given the US strong backing for its proposed ban and the move left Ashe “baffled.” At an event at the Cites summit, Ashe led a large audience in a loud shout of “no” to the EU proposal.
Sonja Van Tichelen, the EU regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “The EU proposal is a misguided and foolish attempt to save face. It is trying desperately to push any position on polar bears that stop it from falling into irrelevancy [by having to abstain in voting]. Polar bears would then have to pay the ultimate cost.”
Ovsyanikov was even more scathing: “This is not a compromise. It is a surrender.”
The US and EU proposals are expected to go to the vote on Wednesday or Thursday, with many delegates predicting that Canada is set to lose. If so, the new rules will enter force within 90 days. Hunting for polar bears by Inuit peoples would still be permitted under Canada’s domestic law, but exporting the skins would not.
Polar Bear Champion Steven Amstrup Awarded 2012 Indianapolis Prize “Lord of the Arctic” May Survive Due to Efforts of Dedicated Scientist
WASHINGTON – His search to understand the Lord of the Arctic, Ursus maritimus, the polar bear, has taken him to one of the harshest environments in the world – a frozen seascape where temperatures plummet below zero and the sun isn’t seen for months on end. Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, the most influential person working on polar bear conservation today, has been selected from among a group of six outstanding finalists to receive the 2012 Indianapolis Prize – the world’s leading award for animal conservation.
Hope that the iconic and endangered polar bear may survive is due in large part to Dr. Amstrup and his team and their groundbreaking studies that resulted in the listing of polar bears as a threatened species because of global warming. Amstrup’s three decades of polar bear research and his unwavering conviction that solutions can and must be found are creating new optimism that polar bears can be saved from extinction. It is in recognition of his life-long work to transform the world’s understanding of and efforts to save polar bears that Steven C. Amstrup, chief scientist for Polar Bears International, has been named the recipient of the Indianapolis Prize. The biennial Prize includes an unrestricted award of $ 100,000 and the Lilly Medal, which will be presented at the Indianapolis Prize Gala ceremony presented by Cummins, Inc. on Sept. 29, 2012, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.
In 2007 Amstrup led an international team of researchers to assess the likely future impact of global warming on polar bears. The group’s nine reports, relied on by the Secretary of the Interior, became the basis for the 2008 listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This listing is significant because the polar bear is the first species – and only species to date – to be listed on the basis of threats posed by global warming.
Early in his career as polar bear research leader for the U.S. Geological Survey, Amstrup solved the decades-old mystery of where Alaskan polar bears go to give birth to their young. His finding that more than half of the mother bears denned on drifting ice floes, which are highly susceptible to rising temperatures, was a prescient indication of the vulnerability of polar bears to a warming world. This and other discoveries regarding the polar bear’s dependence on sea ice led to Amstrup’s 2007 projection that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could disappear by midcentury, and all could be lost by the end of the century, if greenhouse gas emissions continue on the present course. Those discoveries also showed that changing our greenhouse gas emissions path could save polar bears.
“Steven’s fieldwork in the Arctic opened the door to understanding that the deterioration of the polar bear population is at our doorstep, while verifying that this is not an irreversible situation,” said Robert Buchanan, President/CEO, Polar Bears International. “His passionate outreach has helped the world understand how sea ice losses from a warming climate threaten polar bear survival. His message is one of hope and determination to have future generations see polar bears roam free in the Arctic.”
“Steve Amstrup is widely regarded as the most important and influential scientist working on polar bear conservation today,” said Michael Crowther, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo. “By bringing greater awareness to the polar bears’ plight and plausible solutions, he has created a lifeline for the entire species.”
Born in Fargo, N.D., Amstrup received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, his master of science from the University of Idaho in Moscow, and his doctorate from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Amstrup currently resides in Kettle Falls, Wash., with his wife Virginia, and maintains electronic connection with the Polar Bears International office in Bozeman, Mont.
The 2010 biennial Indianapolis Prize was awarded to legendary elephant advocate Iain Douglas-Hamilton. His accomplishments span decades and continents, bringing global attention to the issue of blood ivory and inspiring others to join the battle against poachers and traders.
Downloadable jpg images to accompany this story are available
on the Indianapolis Prize website:
The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. This biennial award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The recipient also receives the Lilly Medal, an original work of art that signifies the winner’s contributions to conserving some of the world’s most threatened animals. The 2010 Indianapolis Prize was awarded to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder and CEO of Save the Elephants and legendary conservation figure. Additional Prize predecessors include Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, and Dr. George Schaller, the world’s pre-eminent field biologist and vice president of science and exploration for the World Conservation Society. The Indianapolis Prize has received support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation since its inception in 2006.
Dr. Steve Amstrup prepares for a field trip to Alaska’s north.
Dr. Steve Amstrup with twin polar bear cubs in Alaska.
Website : 2012 Indianapolis Prize