Polar bears are native to the lands within the Arctic Circle namely Denmark (Greenland) Norway( Svalbard), Russia, USA ( Alaska) and Canada. Regarded as a marine mammal as it spends many months of the year at sea. The Canadian Journal of Zoology once tracked 52 female bears – the male necks being too large to wear a collar, and found that the longest swim was 220 miles with an average of 96 miles over 1 – 10 days. The polar bear is however, land based in that it lives along the perimeter of the polar ice pack and as adults, tend to live solitary lives. Polar bears can live up to 25 years and the oldest on record was 32 in its environment, although the oldest Polar bear in captivity lived until the age of 43 (1991).
The World Conservation Union ( IUCN) reported in 2008 that there were 20,000 – 25,000 polar bears globally and that it faces a major decline in the next 3 generations. According to the US Geological Survey, we are facing losing two thirds of the world's polar bear population by 2050.
Polar bears are under the threat of extinction due to their habitat melting beneath them. However, they continue to be hunted and sought after to make body parts made into rugs or ornaments. Between 2001 and 2010 more than 30,000 polar bear body parts were legally traded – mostly from Canada. Between 2007 and 2012 the number of polar bear skins being sold at trade auctions rose from 40 in 2007 to 150 in 2012 with a skin fetching in the region of £63,000.
The current proposal by the US and supported by Russia is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora ( CITIES) to ban all international commercial in polar bear parts completely. It however, needs the support of Governments across the globe to work together to bring this about.
In the UK, this is being discussed and the UK Environment minister Richard Benyon is being lobbied to give vital protection to these threatened animals. The Humane Society International is asking for people to add their voice to this issue by signing the petition. For readers outside of the UK, the full CITES page is accessible from their site.