They say animal rights activists put the species at more risk than hunters who regard it as central to their livelihood
Doomsday predictions of the polar bear’s demise tend to draw an Inuit guffaw here in Nunavut, the remote Arctic territory where polar bears in some places outnumber people.
People will tell you about the polar bear that strode brazenly past the dump a month ago or the bear that attacked a dog team in the town of Arviat in November. Heart-rending pictures of polar bears clinging to tiny islands of ice elicit nothing but derision.
The move to protect polar bears is appreciated for one thing, however, and that’s a hefty hike in the price for a dead one. Across Canada, prices for polar bear pelts have soared over the last few years, with two at a June 20 auction in Ontario fetching a record $16,500 each.
“Four years ago, we were lucky to get a thousand dollars for a 7-foot polar bear. Now, you can sell that 7-foot polar bear for between $3,500 and $4,000,” said Frank Pokiak, chairman of the Inuvialuit Game Council in northwestern Canada.
The only country in the world that allows its polar bears to be shot and sold commercially on the international market, Canada — home to two-thirds of the remaining population — has reaped the benefits of the rest of the globe’s concern for the bear. So have its native people. An estimated 77% of the world trade in polar bear parts in recent years came from about 500 bears a year killed in Canada, 300 of which typically enter the international market, according to a review by the Humane Society of the United States and Canadian officials.
Now U.S. conservation groups are pushing the U.S. to back an agreement that would ban most international trade in polar bear parts, with a move to upgrade the listing for the polar bear under the 175-nation Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES.