A Pivotal Moment: Act Now to Ban Trafficking of Polar Bears for Profit
Posted May 24, 2012
Over the past few years, polar bears have become a symbol for the urgent need to confront climate change. My grandchildren and thousands of other school children know that if we fail to limit carbon pollution, polar bears could be one of the first species driven to extinction by global warming. Yet instead of protecting polar bears in the face of this crisis, people are kicking them when they’re down.
Every year hunters kill hundreds of polar bears and sell their hides, teeth, and skulls. Believe it or not, trafficking in the body parts of these magnificent creatures is legal on the international market and demand is running high.
Slaughtering polar bears for profit when their icy home is melting under the heat of climate change is outrageous.
The Arctic is the only home polar bears have—they can’t migrate farther north as the weather warms. Instead, they must struggle in a shifting landscape, and many are already drowning and starving as a result of disappearing sea ice. Scientists say that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be gone by 2050 if we don’t reduce global warming pollution. The only populations projected to survive into the next century lives in Canada, and yet Canada is increasing its quota for polar bear hunts.
To give polar bears a fighting chance against climate change, we must protect them from commercial hunting. We must safeguard each polar bear population while we fight to save the entire species.
Right now, we have an opportunity to achieve this. The Obama administration is deciding whether it should propose a worldwide ban on polar bear trafficking at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The United States has been a leader on this issue in the past. At the last CITES meeting in 2010, the administration spearheaded an effort to stop the commercial trade of polar bear parts, but fell short of the votes needed. The plight of the polar bear has only worsened since then, and public protest has mounted. NRDC believes that with U.S. leadership and international outcry, we can end the sale of polar bear parts.
You can help by taking action now when it matter most—just as the agency makes its decision. Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose a ban on the tracking of polar bears for profit.
As someone who has spent decades trying to fight pollution and preserve wilderness, I view the fate of the polar bears as a critical test. Is the human race fulfilling our duty to protect the planet? Are we cleaning up our ways or are we polluting and hunting without sensible limits? Are we doing what so many school children have already done—listened to what polar bears are telling us about the fate of our climate?
I believe we have the wisdom to preserve polar bears, we just have to act on that wisdom. We can start by banning the international commercial trade of this wild and majestic animal.
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