American Elephants

The Truth About Polar Bears, Hidden in a Footnote! by The Elephant's Child


When you are trying to build an international movement, you need good publicity, big donations and lots of members. Environmental organizations went for the polar bear, understandably. Beautiful animals, baby polar bears are remarkably cute, and polar bears make great stuffed toys for children and iconic art work for everything from tee shirts to jewelery and Christmas tree ornaments.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimated in 1966 that there were 10,000 polar bears in the world. In 2006, the same source estimated the population had risen to 20,000 -25,000 bears. In places like Churchill, Manitoba, organizations like Polar Bears International use the imagined plight of the polar bear to raise money, push propaganda at young people about changing their lifestyles and those of their parents. An activist explained:

We’re empowered to teach these kids how to make a difference. It’s an enormous responsibility. Saving the polar bear is in their hands.

They count polar bears by flying over defined areas representing populations of bears,and photograph them and then count them on the photos. Can they see and photograph all the bears, white against white, swimming, sleeping. diving — who are not staying put? Probably not an accurate count, but perhaps an informed estimate.

Dr. Susan Crockford is an evolutionary biologist and an expert on polar bear evolution. She has been working for 35 years in archaeozoology, paleozoology and forensic zoology. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. In a new paper, she offers ten good reasons not to worry about polar bears. She says:

Survival of polar bears over a  hundred thousand years (at least ) of highly variable sea ice coverage indicates that those biologists who portend a doomed  future for the polar bear have grossly underestimated its ability to survive vastly different conditions than those that existed in the late 1970s when Ian Stirling began his polar bear research.

Elsewhere, she says that she received an unsolicited email from Dr. Dag Vongraven, the current chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG). They wanted to clarify some of the , um, misunderstandings about polar bear global population estimates. They intend to place this footnote in their forthcoming Polar Bear Action Plan draft:

As part of past status reports, the PBSG has traditionally estimated a range for the total number of polar bears in the circumpolar Arctic. Since 2005, this range has been 20-25,000. It is important to realize that this range never has been an estimate of total abundance in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand. It is also important to note that even though we have scientifically valid estimates for a majority of the subpopulations, some are dated. Furthermore, there are no abundance estimates for the Arctic Basin, East Greenland, and the Russian subpopulations. Consequently, there is either no, or only rudimentary, knowledge to support guesses about the possible abundance of polar bears in approximately half the areas they occupy. Thus, the range given for total global population should be viewed with great caution as it cannot be used to assess population trend over the long term.”

S0 all that business about declining populations, not enough sea ice, threatened species, was merely “A guess to satisfy public demand” wrapped up in the useful “settled science” category (which means do not question). Along with all the other environmentalist claptrap, it should be placed in the “nevermind file.”

The polar bears have survived for over a hundred thousand years. They’re just fine.

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