Let’s take polar bears off of the trading block

The planet’s remaining polar bears are headed towards the precipice of extinction.The planet’s remaining 20,000-25,000 polar bears are headed towards the precipice of extinction—one part at a time.  While habitat loss due to climate change still remains the biggest threat to the survival of polar bears, more than ever before, its paws, teeth, skull and other body parts are in high demand on the international commercial trade marketplace. 

And as with any marketplace economic model, wherever goes the demand, the supply will follow.  Unfortunately in the case of polar bears, the supply is limited and disappearing.

In Canada, where 15,000 of the globe’s existing bears reside, as many as 440 of them are killed each year for the trade.  In fact, it is the only country in the world where polar bears are still hunted for international commercial trade and sport.  

The rising and unsustainable global hunting quotas and killing levels are likely motivated, in part, by the growing international demand for polar bear parts.  From 2007 to 2012, there was a 375% increase in the number of polar bear skins offered at auction in Canada, with their hides fetching record high prices in 2012.

Taking a leadership role to mitigate the plight of the species, the United States, supported by the Russian Federation, has proposed to prohibiting the international commercial trade in polar bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), by uplisting the animals to Appendix I.

Now, the vote is almost on the table.  It is up to the 176 countries that are Parties to the Convention (CoP) to ratify the U.S.’s proposal at next month’s CITES meeting in Thailand.  Nothing short of an all-out ban on this unsustainable, international commercial trade will provide the protections needed for polar bears to roam around their habitat for years to come.

An uplisting of the polar bear to Appendix 1 will take the polar bear’s head, hide and body off of the trading block – relieving the most reversible threat to their survival.


Visit our CITES campaign page for all the latest updates on IFAW efforts to protect wildlife.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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