Josh Mogerman, NRDC, 312-651-7909; Abby Berman, IFAW, 646-695-7044; Rebecca Basu, The HSUS/HSI, 301-258-3152
WASHINGTON (June 5, 2012) – Readers of influential inside the beltway newspapers were met with eye-popping, full-page advertisements this morning that called on the Obama Administration to take a leadership role in protecting imperiled polar bear populations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is currently considering whether the U.S. will propose to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The ads, which highlight the high prices that skulls, paws, skins and other bear parts can fetch, can be seen here.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International placed the ads in The Hill and Politico to raise awareness and help direct public comments in support of a proposal to address the polar bear issue at the next international CITES conference. The federal comment period continues through June 11. Over 100,000 Americans have already written to support greater international protections.
While climate change is the species’ main threat (the loss of Arctic sea ice is projected to reduce the total polar bear population by two-thirds over the next 40 years) polar bears are also threatened by unsustainable harvest in Canada, an issue that could be addressed at the next meeting of CITES.
Following are statements from the groups placing the ads:
"The ads are a message to Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration: it is time to protect polar bears,” said NRDC Lands and Wildlife program director Andrew Wetzler. “The plight of the polar bear has been one of the most visible and harrowing issues to emerge in the global effort to confront climate change. And, as if the species wasn’t facing enough trouble with the rapid disappearance of the sea ice they rely on, threat of commercial hunting is just the sort of stressor we need to put an end to if we want to keep polar bears around. This is infinitely doable and Americans should take the lead to make sure it gets done.”
“Polar bears are already standing on thin ice. Facing mounting threats including climate change, oil exploration and pollution, the unnecessary killing of these creatures for sport and trade in their parts will only accelerate their slide into extinction. Indecision is not an option. At the next CITES meeting, the U.S. must again lead the charge to offer greater global protection for polar bears against trade,” said Jeff Flocken, DC Office Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“Demand for polar bear skins at auction has doubled in the past four years, as have the average and maximum skin prices,” said Dr. Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife for Humane Society International, the global arm of The Humane Society of the United States. “Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be lost by mid-century and apparently people want to get a piece of them before they are gone forever. The U.S. should take the lead in stopping people from cashing in on polar bears by submitting the CITES proposal and urging other countries to support it.”
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