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The Plight of the Polar Bear

Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could be gone by 2050, with the remaining third extinct by the end of the century, if current trends continue.

The International Forum of the Conservation of Polar Bears is meeting in Moscow this month to discuss the impact of climate change on polar bear populations and how to raise awareness and support for polar bear conservation. The forum will include representatives from Norway, Russia, Canada, Greenland and Alaska, as well as speakers from conservation groups such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Photo by Christopher Curtiss (Flickr ID: xrayspx) used under a Creative Commons license.
Photo by Christopher Curtiss (Flickr ID: xrayspx) used under a Creative Commons license.

Increased global warming due to climate change is one of the major factors affecting the survival rates of polar bears—as the ice caps melt and disappear, so too do their food sources. In addition to this, polar bear pelts are increasingly popular as skins and rugs, fueling a demand in the international wildlife market and adding overharvesting to the list of threats to their survival.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List of Threatened Species, which provides conservation status and distribution information on plants and animals, lists polar bears as “vulnerable,” which means that the population is steadily declining. IUCN predicts the species will be extinct within 100 years,

Canada, home to more than two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population, lists these animals as a species of special concern, rather than placing them in the more critical categories of “”threatened” or “endangered.” While there remains concern over their survival in the region, this status means that polar bears are not covered by legal protection that extends to species with a higher-level listing. This status has been repeatedly challenged since it was assigned in 2011, and the Center for Biological Diversity claims this is motivated by profit from polar bear skin and rug exports.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) concluded last month that it was time to review the status of polar bears in Canada. The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a claim that the Canadian government had failed to consider all the available information when it assigned the status—a claim the Canadian government is disputing.

You can help save these beautiful creatures by signing a petition to support the protection of polar bears or by donating to the Center for Biological Diversity’s Emergency Polar Bear Protection Fund here.

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