14 March 2012, 18:37

Scientists to discuss fate of polar bears

Scientists to discuss fate of polar bears

Russian animal rights activists have called for a change in the status of the polar bear. A meeting which will bring together the groups set up under the Russian-American Agreement on the protection and exploitation of the Chukotsky-Alaska polar bear opens today in Anchorage in the U.S.

Russian animal rights activists have called for a change in the status of the polar bear. A meeting which will bring together the groups set up under the Russian-American Agreement on the protection and exploitation of the Chukotsky-Alaska polar bear opens today in Anchorage in the U.S. Maria Vorontsova, Director of the Russian branch of the International Foundation for the protection of animals is to tell her colleagues about the proposals, aimed at saving rare  animals. 

The population of the world’s polar bear is decreasing. There are now about 20-25 thousands left, out of which some   5 thousand belong to the Chukotsky-Alaska species. In the past 20 years, the number of bears on the Vrangel Island dropped from 300 to 60.

Russia has proposed including the polar bear in the UN Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, fauna and flora, says Lyudmila Danilova, a biologists, in an interview with the VOR. 

“The list includes animals facing extinction, and trading which has a negative effect on the species survival. The polar bear qualifies  to be placed at top of the UN list of endangered speciies.. According to the classification by the International Union for the protection of nature, it belongs to the category of animals which are in danger of extinction. The population of the polar bear has dwindled considerably as a  result of sport hunting in Canada, and the demand for their skin on the world market”, Lyudmila Danilova said.

Some 800 animals, including gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers, jaguars, Indian elephants and several otherspecies are now under the protection of the  UN. A decision when the status of the polar bear should be changed will be taken at an International Conference in March 2013 in Thailand. The motion for a change will be tabled by one of the participating  countries 6 months before the conference, and the Russian initiative could be logical, Lyudmila Danilova said.

“Russia is the leader in the protection of the polar bear. It was the first country to ban the hunting of these animals  in 1957, at the time when in other countries polar bear hunting was allowed. In 2011, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reaffirmed that the polar bear will not be hunted in Russia. There is  a bilateral Russo-American polar bear  agreement. There are indigenous peoples in Russia and Alaska who have the right to hunt the  polar bear. It was  agreed that 58 bears per country can be can be culled out of the existing population, that is 29 bears per country, but Mr. Putin has said that Russia will not be using its quota. Four species of animals are under the patronage of the PM, one of which is the polar bear”.

Russia remains confident that the other countries which have polar bear populations - Norway, Denmark and the U.S. - will support its proposal. Canada is the 'odd one out' because the hunting of the bear is legal. Canada is one of the countries where some aboriginal peoples are allowed to hunt polar bears under a  quota  system.

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