Save imperiled polar bears from catastrophic climate change, trophy hunting, and commercial trade

Global warming is wreaking havoc on polar bears.A new report published in the journal Conservation Letters reveals that anthropogenic global warming is wreaking havoc on polar bears. The Arctic’s climate change is the most dramatic on the planet, which leaves sea-ice dependent species, like polar bears, as well as walrus, ice-pack seals and some species of whales, at great risk.

If the trend continues, polar bears in particular will face unparalleled decreases in survival, reproduction, and population.

Habitat loss from climate change is the foremost threat to polar bears’ survival.

It’s a big issue that needs an even bigger solution.

As the conservation community works to address the complex long-term issues of climate change, it’s up to us to eliminate right now any unnecessary threats polar bears face that can be readily addressed.

While the polar bear population treads on thin ice (literally) and the species continues to decline, the demand for polar bears in commercial trade has drastically increased.

From 2007 to 2012, there was a 375% increase in the number of polar bear skins offered at auction in Canada to meet this soaring demand, with their hides fetching record high prices in 2012. And not coincidentally in Canada—the only polar bear range nation that still permits commercial harvest for trophies and international trade—bear hunting quotas keep escalating.

It is not hard to surmise how hunting this venerated species for trophies, decorations, and rugs further exacerbates their projected extinction.

To keep the iconic polar bear on the planet and not a distant memory, we must protect their survival.

A significant step towards ensuring a future for polar bears is the U.S. proposal, supported by the Russian Federation, to uplist the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I status at the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand next month.

This would quash the international trade in polar bear parts and provide new safeguards against unsustainable trophy hunting.

We all must do our part to keep polar bears safe. To help prevent what is already an icy future for polar bears, we implore the 176 countries that are Parties to CITES to support the U.S. proposal to uplist the polar bears. This icon of the Arctic deserves a chance at survival.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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