Britain urged to stop supporting the trade in dead polar bears

 

A A A

Environmentalists including Chris Packham and Bear Grylls have urged Britain to drop its support for polar bear trading – claiming that the UK's opposition to a ban has contributed to thousands of the animals being hunted for rugs, trophies and body-parts.

Although the polar bear's survival is threatened by the melting of its Arctic sea-ice habitat, it is still legal to hunt the animals in Canada.

Wealthy tourists from as far afield as China pay up to $20,000 to track and hunt the endangered bears on dog-sledges, with more than 32,000 specimens traded internationally between 2001 and 2010. Skins, skulls and even teeth are sold, predominately in Japan and within the EU.

The UK has previously backed looser regulation of the trade, which has resulted in around 600 polar bears being shot in Canada every year, as well as an unknown number being shot illegally in Russia.

In a letter seen by The Independent, the Humane Society International urges Richard Benyon, the Wildlife minister, to "be a champion for the polar bear" by voting for a ban on the lucrative global trade in polar bear body-parts at a key meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) later this year.

The letter has als o been signed by Mr Packham, the adventurer Mr Grylls, and the actors Joseph Fiennes, Brian Blessed and Martin Clunes, in addition to the actress Joanna Lumley and the biologist Mark Carwardine.

The USA, backed by Russia, has proposed upgrading the polar bear's Cites trade status from Appendix II to Appendix I, which is reserved for the planet's most endangered species and would impose an effective ban on trade in polar-bear products. At the last Cites summit in 2010, the UK led the EU bloc of 27 nations in voting for lighter Appendix II regulation – a position conservationists say must be urgently reversed.

"The survival of the polar bear is threatened like never before from habitat loss through climate change," reads the letter, which is signed by Mark Jones, the head of the Humane Society International. "Whilst action we take now to tackle climate change may take years to benefit polar bears, ending the global trade will give them immediate and much-needed respite."

The next Cites summit will be held in Bangkok in March. If a two-thirds majority of nations votes in favour of tighter restrictions, an effective ban on polar-bear trade will become international law. In 2010, the 27 EU votes were crucial in blocking a ban, with 48 voting for and 62 against out of 121 nations. The UK is seen as a key voice in swaying the EU bloc vote.

Scientists estimate that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears left in the wild, with two-thirds of them found in Canada. Of the 12 populations for which data exist, eight are in decline. The decreasing extent of the Arctic summer sea-ice as a result of global warming has put extreme pressure on the species, robbing it of its main hunting ground. According to models created by the US Geological Survey, the bears could lose 70 per cent of their habitat by the middle of the century.

A spokesman for Mr Benyon's department, Defra, said that policy advisers were "considering the proposals" on a trade ban, adding that Mr Benyon would not be personally attending the Cites meeting in Bangkok. The spokesman said that, with the threat of climate change, trophy-hunting had been considered a secondary threat to polar bears and legislating for it was like "fiddling while Rome burns".

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin