Environmentalism – Chapter 32 NO ICE NO BEARS
March saw the CoP 16th meetings held in Thailand from which 177 nations attended for the three yearly summit held by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora also known as the Washington agreement founded in 1975.
Most of the meetings held did have some positive conclusions regarding some of our most known to species to critically endangered and endangered species of mammals and non-mammalians to botanical species. Talks on the environment were also held with regards to the earths increasing temperatures and the colossally high Co2 emissions by third world and industrialised nations.
Many species of aquatics were listed proving that we have more conservation work to undertake in these areas along with upgrading wildlife security to awareness and education with other mammal and non-mammal species up listed that shows conservation has been a complete success within the areas in bringing numbers of species back up to safe green levels.
The Polar Bear though was hit with a bad report, and by not protecting this majestic gentle giant then we could be looking at the Polar Bear in the next three years within the critically endangered category. The Polar Bear is at this moment listed as vulnerable from there the next listing is “endangered”. Can we honestly wait for the next the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora meetings to be held in South Africa to know of its fate?
The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world’s largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak bear, which is approximately the same size. A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (770–1,500 lb.), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size.
Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time at sea. Their scientific name means “maritime bear”, and derives from this fact. Polar bears can hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present.
International Animal Rescue Foundation © is frustrated at the lack of public awareness and propagandists of which I have listed a comment below of such wrongful information in the public domain;
Yet despite the Canadian government’s $150-million commitment February 2013 to fund 44 International Polar Year research projects, a key question is not up for detailed scientific assessment: If the polar bear is the 650-kilogram canary in the climate change coal mine, why are its numbers INCREASING? The latest government survey of polar bears roaming the vast Arctic expanses of northern Quebec, Labrador and southern Baffin Island show the population of polar bears has jumped to 2,100 animals from around 800 in the mid-1980s.
As recently as three years ago, a less official count placed the number at 1,400. The Inuit have always insisted the bears’ demise was greatly exaggerated by scientists doing projections based on fly-over counts, but their input was usually dismissed as the ramblings of self-interested hunters.
As Nunavut government biologist Mitch Taylor observed in a front-page story in the Nunatsiaq News last month, “the Inuit were right. There aren’t just a few more bears. There is a hell of a lot more bears.” Their widely portrayed lurch toward extinction on a steadily melting ice cap is not supported by bear counts in other Arctic regions either. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is collecting feedback on whether to declare the polar bear “threatened” under its Endangered Species Act, joining the likes of the rare red-cockaded woodpecker, the lesser prairie chicken and the Sonoran pronghorn, which are afforded official protection and species recovery management. The service held its first public hearing on the polar bear project last night in Washington D.C.
But background papers for the debate hardly justify a rush to protect the bear from extinction if its icy habitat fades to green. The service identifies six Arctic regions where data are insufficient to make a call on the population, including the aforementioned Baffin shores area.
Another six areas are listed as having stable counts, three experienced reduced numbers and two have seen their bears increase. Inuit also argue the bear population is on the rise along western Hudson Bay, in sharp contrast to the Canadian Wildlife Service, which projects a 22% decline in bear numbers.
Far be it for me to act as a climate- change denier, but that’s hardly overwhelming proof of a species in peril in Canada, which claims roughly two thirds of the world’s polar bear population. Reading international coverage of the bear, it’s obvious Canada has become home to the official poster species for extinction by climate change.
Everywhere you look, the “doomed” polar bear’s story is illustrated with the classic photo of a mother and cub teetering on a fragile-looking ice floe, the ice full of holes and seemingly about to disappear into the sea. “The drama is clear: This is truly the tip of an iceberg, the bears are desperately stranded as the water swells around them,” according to a recent article in The Observer magazine carrying the photo. Something’s always bothered me about that photo, which has been vilified on the Internet as a fake.
Even if it’s the real thing, the photographer was clearly standing on something solid not far from his forlorn looking subjects. For a species that can swim dozens of kilometres to find a decent seal dinner, a few hundred metres to shore is a leisurely doggie paddle to safety. Of course, tracking polar bear populations is an inexact science.
They roam about, which lends itself to double counting, and they’re not easy to identify from any distance. Besides, polar bears do live on ice and satellite photos show the sea ice is down 7.7% in the last decade. So something is happening up there.
End of report –
There were many unhappy conservationists at the CoP 16th meetings held this March 2013 regarding the Polar Bear that is concerning ourselves greatly as they face major threats of which one is not so easy to tackle and this could explain why CITES didn’t upgrade the Polar Bear as they may know more than they are actually letting on, although to most educated conservationists and maritime scientists it’s blatantly obvious that climate change could/will see them gone with or without them being upgraded to ensure their survival.
Polar Bear’s primary threats;
- Poaching and illegal animal parts trade
- Over hunting via foreign trophy hunters
- Inuit hunting and poaching for /food/income
- Climate change which is the fore front and most serious threat to our white bear
The day may soon come when some of the 19 polar bear populations in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia will have to be fed by humans in order to keep them alive during an extended ice-free season or prevent them from roaming into northern communities. Some bears may have to be placed in temporary holding compounds until it is cold enough for them to go back onto the sea ice. In worst-case scenarios, polar bears from southern regions may have to be relocated to more northerly climes that have sufficient sea ice cover.
Far-fetched, draconian, and unlikely as some of these scenarios may sound, 12 scientists from Arctic countries are, for the first time, suggesting that the five nations with polar bear populations need to start considering these and other management strategies now that sea ice retreat is posing serious challenges to the bears’ survival. In worst-case scenarios, the scientists say that polar bears with little chance of being rehabilitated or relocated may have to euthanized. Zoos, which are currently having a difficult time acquiring polar bears because of stringent regulations that prevent them from doing so, will at some point likely be offered as many animals as they can handle, according to the scientists.
This crisis management plan for polar bears as Arctic sea ice disappears was laid out in February in an article in Conservation Letters, the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. Polar bear experts Andrew Derocher, Steve Amstrup, Ian Stirling, and nine others say that with Arctic sea ice disappearing far faster than originally estimated, it’s time for Arctic nations to begin making detailed plans to save as many of the world’s 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears as possible.
“We really never have been here before,” says Amstrup, chief scientist for Polar Bears International and a lead author of a landmark U.S. government-appointed panel that predicted in 2008 that two-thirds of the polar bears in the world could disappear by mid-century.
The University of Alberta’s Derocher added, “We have covered the science side of the issue very well, but the policy and management aspects are locked in the past. We still manage polar bears in Canada like nothing has changed. Other countries are moving on some aspects of future polar bear management, but it is glacial compared to the actual changes we’re seeing in sea ice and the bears themselves.”
The alien-sounding concepts presented in this week’s paper — with names like supplemental feeding, diversionary feeding, translocation, and intentional population reduction — may become increasingly put into practices as Arctic sea ice, continues to disappear in spring, summer, and fall. Forty years ago, when the first International Polar Bear Agreement was ratified, the threats facing polar bears were chiefly hunting and mining and oil development. But the overriding threat now is climate change.
Without adequate sea ice for enough of the year, many bears will not be able to use the ice as a feeding platform to hunt their favoured prey, ringed seals. As a consequence, polar bears will be forced to spend more time fasting on land, where they pose a greater risk to human populations in the Arctic. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Polar Bear Specialist Group recently concluded that only one of the 19 polar bear subpopulations is currently increasing. Three are stable and eight are declining. For the remaining seven subpopulations, there is insufficient data to provide an assessment of current trends.
Derocher and some of his colleagues have been thinking about the need for dramatic rescue plans for polar bears for at least five years. The scientists say a record disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice in 2007 increased the urgency for emergency planning, as did research by Peter Molnar — Derocher’s one-time graduate student and now a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University — suggesting that the collapse of some polar bear populations may occur sooner than climate models predict.
Over the past two years, scientists began considering a specific list of actions to save polar bear populations. A draft paper by Derocher and others was circulated last August just as Arctic summer sea ice hit striking new lows, with sea ice volume dropping 72 percent from the 1979-2010 mean, and ice extent falling by 45 percent from the 1979-2000 mean.
“If you talk to any of the polar bear biologists, you’ll find that the public is already asking us about the issues we cover in the paper,” Derocher said in an interview. “I’ve had well-positioned conservationists waiting to start the fund-raising to feed polar bears.
“I don’t view the options we lay out as a way of not dealing with greenhouse gases,” he added, “because without action on that front, there’s little that could be done in the longer term to save the species, and we’ll see massive range contractions and possibly extinction.”
Two key ideas in the current paper are supplemental feeding, to make up for the loss of ringed seals that polar bears can kill on ice, and diversionary feeding to draw hungry polar bears on shore away from human settlements. Supplemental feeding is nothing new; it is done for numerous species, from elk in the United States to brown bears in Eastern Europe. But feeding polar bears poses major challenges.
Derocher said in an email that the goal would be to distribute food, such as seals, in sufficient quantities over large distances so that hungry bears, forced ashore by lack of ice, would not come into conflict by vying for the same food. The goal would be to keep bear populations widely scattered, as attracting too many bears to central locations could increase the risk of disease transmission. Helicopters could be used to deliver the seals, but the logistics and expense of such a plan would be daunting. Thousands of seals would have to be killed by wildlife officials every summer to meet the needs of hungry bears, who each consume up to five seals a week.
“There is not a lot of experience with any of these issues, so it would take coordination and learning from the east Europeans, who already feed brown bears,” said Derocher. Still, he is convinced that we will someday be feeding polar bears in the wild. “The public pressure will be intense to do so,” he says, “and the public influences policy.”
Another possible measure would be to relocate bears from more southerly regions, such as Hudson Bay, to more northerly regions, such as M’Clintock Channel in Nunavut in the high Canadian Arctic. The number of bears in the icier M’Clintock Channel area has been significantly reduced by overhunting, so there is room to relocate bears from Hudson Bay and James Bay without creating territorial conflicts, scientists say. Cubs from one population could also be flown to more northerly regions and placed with females that would rear them as “foster” cubs, Derocher said.
In Derocher’s view, feeding and relocation will only work for polar bears so long as they have some habitat remaining, which is unlikely in the next century if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed dramatically. “Keeping hundreds of semi-wild bears on a diet of bear chow doesn’t fit my personal philosophy, but perhaps centuries from now, it will be viewed as visionary, if we eventually control those greenhouse gases,” Derocher says.
The paper notes that another option is holding polar bears temporarily in the Arctic in enclosures during low sea ice periods. A similar thing is now done with problem bears around Churchill, Manitoba on western Hudson Bay.
The report acknowledges that in a worst-case scenario, where the primary goal is to preserve the genetic structure of the species, zoos around the world could play an important role. Amstrup, the U.S. zoologist, says there are signs that the U.S. is at least considering the idea of easing restrictions on the importation of orphan cubs found in the wild.
“Regardless of whether reintroducing polar bears or their genes ever is practical, we cannot overlook other ways zoos may contribute,” he says. “Dozens of species are healthier and more abundant in the wild today because of captive breeding and other zoo programs.”
As a last resort, the paper mentions “intentional population reduction'” — the killing of starving bears. “Controlled reduction of population size through harvest might be necessary to ensure both human safety and a viable but smaller polar bear population as a result of declining habitat,” the paper said. “Euthanasia may be the most humane option for individual bears in very poor condition that are unlikely to survive. Under these circumstances, it will be important to develop clear guidelines for identification of starving animals.”
Amstrup emphasizes that the purpose of the article is not to promote one management strategy over another or to suggest that they will all work. “The purpose is to remind the readers, and hopefully policy people, that the long-term future of polar bears is in jeopardy,” he says. “It makes managers and policy people aware of the various kinds of on-the-ground actions that may be applied and makes them begin to think of the varying levels of cost that may be involved in the different options they may choose.”
Stirling, a biologist at the University of Alberta, said in an e-mail that the paper is “a starting point that clarifies the need to be developing some preliminary plans for dealing with such problems.” The scientists realize that it will be difficult to sell these controversial management strategies to the public and to policy makers. One impetus for action will likely be an increasing threat to humans in the Arctic from hungry bears being forced off the ice and onto land. “The sooner we consider the options, the sooner we’ll have a plan,” said Derocher. “The worst-case scenario is a catastrophically early sea ice break-up with hundreds of starving bears, followed by inappropriate management actions.
“It has always seemed that we’ve been behind the curve on climate change and polar bears,” he said, noting that conservation planning for polar bears has typically extended several decades into the future. “That time frame leads one to think you’ve got time. But the science is clear that this is a fallacy.”
So what do we do is the next question, we simply cannot just move into the Artic and start euthanizing them, and moving them to zoo’s is merely not the answer to solving the main problem of which climate change has to be addressed and rapidly. Translocation could be seen as a viable solution, but to where? and if we move them then as with other species that are moved or become critically endangered to extinct we could be looking at the Polar Bears prey then effecting other smaller mammals and fish.
This is a serious problem and one which is more serious than that of the Rhinoceros to Elephant as much as that is difficult to quote with regards to the catastrophic poaching levels that see’s eleven African Elephants slaughtered for their teeth (ivory) every one hour and every thirteen hours one to two Rhinoceros are also slain for their horn to produce fake Asian medicinal cures. Poaching is also funding terrorism and it has now been quoted that more “highly sophisticated criminals are in touch with this quick money maker” being that of narcotic gangs and the mafia.
- Longer stretches without food were impacting the predators’ health, breeding success and population, as for polar bears, “it’s survival of the fattest”.
- Previous studies have shown that the western Hudson Bay polar bear population, recently estimated at about 900 animals, has declined since the 1990s, as have their body condition and the number of cubs surviving to adulthood.
- Polar bears are arriving on shore earlier in the summer and leaving later in the autumn.
- The longer the bears spend on land, the longer they have to go without their energy-rich seal food, with consequent impacts on their health and survival.
The main proven and scientific fact though is changes to the timing of migration that have resulted in polar bears spending progressively longer periods of time on land without access to sea ice and their marine mammal prey = Climate change is going to kill them faster than hunting, poaching and Inuit tribes.
How do we address this problem though?, well that’s what should have been addressed more thoroughly at the CITES meeting instead of talks of upgrading them to ensure their survival. The Born Free Foundation’s CEO was most upset that CITES hadn’t placed a more stringent protection order on the Polar Bear. As explained though CLIMATE CHANGE that we have all ignored as well as being lied to by American government scientists and governmental non-profits paid by government to compulsively lie and spin much propaganda by the United States SHOULD HAVE BEEN taken into consideration a lot sooner which now leaves us in a stalemate predicament.
Stay tuned for our three part Polar Bear and Artic talks working towards preserving the Polar Bears future and it’s homes.
To stay up to date with our environmental and animal welfare news and media page please click the follow button at the bottom right of the screen. You will be emailed automatically all new news and media investigations hot of the press.
Dr J C Dimetri V.M.D, B.E.S, Ma, PhD, MEnvSc
International Animal Rescue Foundation
Director and International Delegates
For more information please email us at;