Happy International Polar Bear Day!

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Yes, that’s right; everything deserves its own special day and today is International Polar Bear Day.  To help us celebrate, here’s some fun polar bear facts:

  • Polar bears spend almost their entire life on ice, using the flowing sea ice of the Arctic throughout the seasons to move about, finding food and mates.
  • Adult male polar bears weigh between 1,300 and 1,700 pounds and adult female polar bears weigh about half that.  Male polar bears measure 8-9 feet from nose to tail and female polar bears measure from 6-7 feet.
  • Polar bear fur is not white.  It’s translucent (and hollow!), allowing sunlight to reach their black skin.  The reflection of light off their fur is what makes them appear white.
  • Polar bears are found in only five countries – Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia, and the United States.
  • The global polar bear population is about 20,000 – 25,000.
  • They love to eat ringed seals.

What’s not so fun about polar bears is that they may not be around too much longer.  Polar bears are threatened by climate change; within the next 40 years, disappearing sea ice in the Arctic will likely result in polar bears disappearing from Greenland, Norway, Russia, and the United States.  By the end of the century, populations will only remain in the Canadian Archipelago.

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Unfortunately, Canada has not been doing a very good jot preparing for its stewardship role.  Instead of rolling out the welcoming mat, Canada is the only country that still allows the killing of polar bears for trophy hunting and international commercial trade.  With fur prices at record highs, quotas for populations in jeopardy have been set at unsustainable levels, against the expert advice of scientists.  Despite both domestic and international attempts to get Canada to do more to protect polar bears, it hasn’t curbed its appetite for the killing of around 500 polar bears per year.

Fortunately, the international community has a chance to do something.  About a year from now, the delegates to the Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will meet and may decide whether to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts.  NRDC is doing everything it can to ensure polar bears get the protection they need at this meeting, where we can once and for all end the unsustainable killing of polar bears for international trade.  I hope you’ll help us get there:  www.polarbearsSOS.org.