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WWF: human-bear conflict increasing

Polar bear, courtesy of WWF

Polar bear, courtesy of WWF

Hungry polar bears under pressure from climate change are increasingly coming into conflict with people in some regions, said experts at a WWF Workshop in Tromso, Norway, this week. The meeting called on governments to work together to finance and implement ways to keep both bears and people safe.

30 experts from different Arctic regions agreed the polar bear range states – Canada, Norway, Greenland, Russia and the United States – should cooperate to fund, monitor and share conflict reduction measures.

WWF polar bear lead Geoff York said “As sea ice habitat continues to decline, more bears will spend longer periods of time onshore and human activities are also projected to increase in the area, setting the stage for trouble in the years ahead”.

There is a “Range States polar bear conflict working group”. It was also present at the workshop and said it will be presenting a new data tracking system and draft conflict plan at the next meeting of the “Polar Bear Range States” meeting which will be held in Moscow in the autumn.

WWF has designated 2013 as the Year of the Polar Bear and is calling on the countries involved to make firm commitments at the meeting.

So how do you reduce conflict, when bears are hungry and humans in close proximity to areas where they hunt for food? The workshop participants shared ideas including polar bear patrols to help keep bears away from communities, safe storage and disposal of food and rubbish, education on safety measures, deterrents from bear spray to fences and dealing with “problem bears”.

The Ice Blog recently drew attention to a successful project in Canada, which has reduced conflict between bears and locals.

Polar bears are also on the agenda at the CITES meeting in Bangkok at the moment, running until March 14th. The USA is trying to get the bear switched to Appendix I of the convention, which would ban trade in all but “exceptional” circumstances.

This is a different aspect of “polar-bear conflict” and difficult because of traditional hunting practices in some areas. The Economist has an interesting summary in Polar Bear Politics.

Date

March 4, 2013 | 4:12 pm

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WWF Canada helps reduce polar-bear kills

Polar bear, courtesy of WWF

Polar bear, courtesy of WWF

There are estimated to be between 20 and 25 thousand polar bears left in the world. Climate change is the main threat to their survival these days. Hunting is strictly regulated, with quotas for the number allowed to be hunted as part of indigenous Arctic people’s heritage. But what happens when hungry bears, affected by the loss of sea ice, encroach on human territory? Not a good combination. WWF Canada has been involved in a project to set up electric fences – some of them solar powered – to keep the white giants out and reduce the number of bears killed in self-defense – with highly positive results so far. For the first time in at least three years, no bears were killed in defense of life or property in the hamlet of Arviat, in Nunavut in 2012 thanks to a “polar bear conflict reduction” project. The community , in the western Hudson Bay area, had reported increasing visits by polar bears in town in recent years. One reason is thought to be the loss of sea ice through climate change. WWF Canada has helped the locals fund a monitor to patrol the area at night from October to December, when bears are out and about in the Nunavut region. The monitor scares the bears with spotlights and noise. They have also installed electric fences around some of the dog-team pens. 2013 is the WWF’s “Year of the Polar Bear”. The organisation is also helping to fund monitoring programmes to keep track of the number of bears.

 

Date

February 12, 2013 | 10:25 am

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Climate change in pictures

Icebergs from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier on ice blog trip 2009

Icebergs from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier on ice blog trip 2009

 

Gary Braasch is a photographer who decided some time ago to devote the rest of his working life to documenting the effects of climate change in pictures. I met him on a plane on the way to a conservation summit some time ago, when he was presenting a new photography book. Faithful ice blog watchers may remember the story.  One of the pictures was a polar bear on land – I was immediately reminded of a story by George Divoky, ornithologist and climate observer. George monitors black guillemots on Cooper Island, off Barrow, Alaska. He has observed considerable change in the climate in recent years, and has had to take all kinds of measures to protect the birds against hungry bears. He had also told me about an encounter he and a visitor had had with a bear. It turned out the photo and George’s story were one and the same event.

Now I have discovered Gary’s website World View of Global Warming, which is well worth a look. George’s Cooper Island site also has some spectacular pictures.

 

Date

January 28, 2013 | 11:26 am

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Polar bear in Abu Dhabi

Abdallah al Shami sees a clear connection between what happens in the Gulf and the melting Arctic – and vice-versa

Yes, the ice-blogger has indeed found a polar bear in Abu Dhabi. I was standing in front of ‘Wendy’, an eco-art creation by US-based artists and architects Marc Kushner and Matthias Hollwich, set up in downtown Abu Dhabi as part of Sustainability Week, when I was handed a magazine with a 3D picture of the climate impact icon, looking lost on a chunk of melting ice. Abdallah al Shami is the project editor of a spezial edition of the Abu Dhabi culture magazine Shawati in conjunction with Masdar to mark this week dedicated to sustainability, clean energy and water.

The picture  showcases what our actions can do to the environment, he says. We can save it – or it will go. ‘We wanted to have a global message, not just address local issues’, says Abdallah. ‘With all the ice that has been melting in the Arctic, Abu Dhabi wants to address global issues and their interconnections’.  And those connections between our actions anywhere in the globe and what’s happening in the Arctic are exactly why the ice blog is coming to you from this part of the world this week. Couldn’t have put it better myself, Abdallah.

 

 

 

Date

January 14, 2013 | 7:09 pm

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“First foot” for the “space” penguins

Penguins galore – Photographed by the International Polar Foundation team in Antarctica, December 2012

You may remember a report a couple of years ago about how satellite images revealed the existence of a hitherto unknown large colony of penguins in an area of Antarctica. AT that time, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and the UK National Environment Research Council attracted a fair bit attention with the “penguins from space” story. Now three members of a team from Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station have become the first humans to visit and photograph the colony of around 9,000 emperor penguins on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast.

Date

January 10, 2013 | 12:00 pm

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