New study finds the Chukchi Sea polar bear population to have held stable or increased slightly. However, although the population appears to be doing well for now, it could eventually face the same challenges as its adjacent southern Beaufort Sea population, which has experienced recent declines in body size and recruitment. The rate of sea ice decline in the Chukchi region is greater than that in the Beaufort Sea and is likely to have negative effects on their body condition and survival at some point.
Gus, the Central Park Zoo polar bear, dies aged 27 after veterinarians found a large and inoperable tumor.
The Wildlife Conservation Society explained, “Gus was euthanized yesterday while under anesthesia for a medical procedure conducted by WCS veterinarians. Gus had been exhibiting abnormal feeding behavior with low appetite and difficulty chewing and swallowing his food. During the procedure, veterinarians determined Gus had a large, inoperable tumor in his thyroid region”.
Zoo officials estimate more than 20 million people visited Gus in his lifetime at the zoo.
Oregon Zoo’s polar bear, Tasul, and her job as a research assistant.
Tasul is currently helping researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey study how climate change is affecting wild polar bears in the Arctic. She has been fitted with a collar which includes an accelerometer that measures her movements while she’s walking, eating, sleeping and swimming. The collar turns these behaviours into electronic signals and along with video footage being collected researchers will be able to use this to create a digital library of polar bear behaviour.
Once the signals have been calibrated, collars similar to the one Tasul wears will be placed on free-roaming bears in the Arctic. This gives researchers the opportunity to monitor the bears’ behaviour without having to observe them directly, which can be difficult to study, given the remote, harsh environment they inhabit.
More information on Tasul and her role in research can be found here.
Tasul’s collar also had attached a Go-Pro Hero camera which gave a bear’s-eye view. Check out a clip taken from the camera on Oregon Zoo’s YouTube page.
Another Win for the Polar Bears! / Post by Erica Wills of Polar Bears International
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled to uphold the 2008 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) ban on the importation of polar bear parts collected by hunting!
This is an exciting win for polar bears and all who are working so hard to preserve this magnificent species. Congratulations to the USFWS, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Defenders of Wildlife, and the Human Society for their successful defense of the 2008 USFWS ruling to list polar bears as Threatened on the Endangered Species Act!
Kali, the orphaned male polar bear cub from Point Lay, Alaska, explores the outside at the Alaska Zoo.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday that Kali will be temporarily transferred to Buffalo Zoo in New York sometime this spring where he will be introduced to a female cub. His permanent home will be at the Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri, where a state-of-the-art polar bear exhibit is being built. The exhibit is expected to completed in 2015.
[Photos: Loren Holmes]
Orphaned cub Kali
A polar bear cub, who has been named Kali, has been rescued after its mother was killed outside of Point Lay, Alaska. Kali has been provided a temporary home at the Alaska State Zoo until a new home has been found.
Bruce Woods, a spokesman for US Fish & Wildlife said it’s illegal to knowingly kill a female polar bear, or a female with cubs. It is not clear whether Kali’s mother was killed in a subsistence hunt, in self defense or illegally. It has been confirmed that she was shot but her death is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine what happened in this case.
The hunter who shot Kali’s mother had said he did not see a cub with her at the time but soon found out when he rolled her over that she was a nursing sow. He had followed the tracks of the mother to a den about 1,500 feet away where he found Kali inside. He had driven the cub back to Point Lay on his snowmobile, where the cub received care.
The North Slope Borough’s Department of Wildlife Management carried out a health evaluation on Kali and reported the cub to be a young male weighing approximately 18.4 pounds and estimated to be 3-4 months of age.
"It’s still unclear where he’ll go. That process (of determining where he’ll go next) has yet to begin," Woods said. For the mean time The Alaska Zoo will care for Kali until a home has been found. Kali is said to be eating enthusiastically and there is no indication there’s anything wrong with him.
[Photo credit: John Gomes / The Alaska Zoo]
Bid to ban international trade fails
Today delegates at the CITES meeting in Thailand rejected the proposal to protect polar bears from the commercial trade of their body parts. The proposal was put forward by the US with support from Russia but was opposed by Canada (the only country to allow the exporting of polar bear parts).
The proposal had failed to win the two-thirds needed to pass. The results ended with 38 countries voting in favour of the US proposal, 42 against and 46 refrained.
"Limiting commercial trade in this species would have addressed a source of non-climate stress to polar bear populations and contributed to long-term recovery," said the statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Each year, an average of 3,200 items made from polar bears - including skins, claws and teeth - are reported to be exported or re-exported from a range of countries. Polar bear hides sell for an average of $2,000 to $5,000, while maximum hide prices have topped $12,000."
The Canadian delegation argued polar bears did not meet the criteria for Appendix I because the extent of trade does not endanger the species. Polar bears are also an important source of income for the Inuit people who depend on them to survive.
The rejection of the proposal means that the export of polar bear skins, teeth and paws from Canada will continue.
[Photo credit: Martin Lopatka]
US and Russia unite in an attempt to safeguard polar bears
The US and Russia are pushing for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) to list polar bears as endangered species, which is being reviewed this week at a conference in Bangkok. The proposal involves safeguarding polar bears from hunting and prohibiting trading of their skin, fur and body parts.
There is between 20,000-25,000 of polar bears left in the wild but with Arctic sea ice loss (due to warming climate) polar bear numbers could plummet. The sea ice is imperative for the polar bears survival because it is where they hunt for seals, their primary food source. Polar bears also depend on the sea ice to migrate, find mates and females even use the sea ice to den and give birth to her cubs.
Nikita Ovsyanikov, a leading polar bear expert said, “Polar bears are struggling for survival already and exposing them to hunting will drive them to extinction.”
Canada is home to around 15,000 polar bears, that’s around 2/3 of world’s population of polar bears. Each year in Canada around 600 polar bears are killed with half of them sold internationally for their parts. It is the only country that allows such global export of polar bears. Although in the past polar bear populations may have been well-managed in Canada, the IUCN PBSG has concluded that of the 13 sub-populations, 7 are in decline, 3 are stable (but face a high risk of decline) and only one is increasing. The only sub-population to be increasing was because it was extremely over hunted which led to protections and now is currently recovering.
Many scientists agree the reduction of the Arctic ice is due to climate change and together with the increased hunting and trades, they all are population stressors and putting an increased risk of global population decline.
The CITES conference will be held this week in Thailand where 176 countries will input their decision on the proposal. If the proposal is agreed new rules will enter force within 90 days and that hunting of polar bears by Inuit peoples would still be permitted under Canada’s domestic law, however the exporting the body parts would not. If the proposal is rejected we can only hope the next decision is not too late.
[Photo credit: Alastair Rae]