Polar bears are amazing and beautiful, but their population sees a horrible decline. Today, polar bears are classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN red list. The US classifies them as threatened and Canadians treat the issue as “special concern.”
Well, this hasn’t stopped trophy hunters from going after every polar bear they see on the way. Some people would kill an endangered animal just to get some extra cash. This world has taken the wrong direction and the situation doesn’t look good at all.
Climate change is not the only problem at the moment. Yes, the ice melts uncontrollably and bears loose their natural habitat.
But, trophy hunters are even worse. There’s a high demand for polar bear skins in China, and the price goes as high as £250,000.
The US promised not to pursue an international ban on the commercial trade of polar bear hides. The result? People took different sides.
Native Inuit organizations were happy with the idea of being able to hunt polar bears for their meat and pelts. But, this left a lot of people without sleep at night. What about trophy hunters?
“Most of the Polar bear conservation projects today are only focusing on climate change and global warming,” Ole Liodden, an award-winning wildlife photographer and conservationist, explained.
“It is very important to protect the Arctic environment to secure the ecosystem with drifting ice for Arctic animals, but it is also important to protect the animals themselves.
Polar bears have become the main symbol for global warming, and big conservation campaigns are published with images of polar bears. Human removals (killing) of polar bears are rarely mentioned in these campaigns at all.
A big problem when working with polar bear conservation is the fact that information about polar bear hunting is hidden, very limited, only available for shorter periods or only referred to as ‘sustainable’ without any concerns.”
Liodden has been working on his project for four years. According to him, it’s really important that we shut down “trophy hunting and commercial skin trade,” adding that “it is the only way polar bears have a chance of survival in a future with global warming.”
The IUCN reveals that there are only 20,000-25,000 polar bears in the wild. Their statistics show that trophy hunters have killed 50,000 polar bears since the 1960s.
An international agreement has put a stop to ship-based and aerial hunting of polar bears since the 1970s.
Did it help?
The polar bear is one of the most exclusive species for trophy hunters to pursue,” Liodden adds. “But it is the mammal species least suitable because of low cub survival, low reproduction rate, and climate change.
Although a warmer climate may largely determine the future distribution of polar bears, the vast majority of population reductions over the past 30 years are attributable to unsustainable hunting.”
Trophy hunting reached its peak in the 1940s. trophy hunters raided areas in Alaska, USA, and Svalbard, Norway.
Today, bear hunts are only allowed in Canada. Inuit tribal leaders share the same opinion as Liodden and disapprove the hunting. However, the Canadian government approves legal hunting of polar bears. Authorities even encourage their use as guides for trophy hunters.
According to Daily Mirror, an investigation has “uncovered a host of firms offering hunts in the Arctic Circle marketed as the most memorable trophy collectors would ever find.”
Experts are concerned about the rapid decline of the polar bear populations. Their number may see a 50% drop by 2050.
Eduardo Goncalves founded the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting. He says that “trophy hunters kill the biggest animals, removing the genes needed to help it survive global warming.”
Experts from Polar Bears International explain that the previous population management strategies have supported the survival of polar bears. However, climate change made everything worse.
They say that “polar bears depend on the sea-ice surface to catch their seal prey, and global warming means progressively less sea ice on which they can hunt.”, adding that bears will “see their habitats literally melting under their feet unless we act to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Maintaining these harvests in the longer term depends on reducing the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations, but for now, some populations may still be safely hunted.”
There’s no room for optimism at this point. Péter Molnár, a researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough, explains that “it doesn’t look like they’re going to be around for very much longer in most populations.”
Molnár reveals that they have “very strong evidence that these declines will just get worse as the climate changes.”
Our worst nightmares have become reality. We are destroying our own planet, and polar bears are among the first species to disappear.