U.S. and Russia work together for endangered polar bears
March 4, 2013
The U.S. and Russia have proposed to grant polar bears the highest level of protection offered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This treaty is currently under review at a conference in Bangkok. If passed, the proposal would ban international commercial trade of furs, skins and any products made from the bears. The proposal would help curb poaching and the illegal trade of polar bear skins, but it would not affect exports for scientific or non-commercial uses.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare Brussels, an estimated 20-25,000 polar bears remain in the wild. An estimated 15,000 of them live in Canada where overseas trade in skins and parts has not been banned. The Canadian government also permits Inuit peoples to legally kill between 600 and 800 bears per year as a form of necessary, sustainable and traditional sustenance.
Due to loss of habitat, however, the U.S. challenges the claim that this practice is currently sustainable. With Canada and Denmark opposing the hunting ban, it remains to be seen whether the focus on preserving polar bears will proceed around protecting the bears' habitat or protecting the bears themselves.