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Russia Bans Polar Bear Hunting

U.S. to continue claiming its quota

Thanks to a push from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia has banned the hunting of polar bears this year.

Last year, with polar bears increasingly endangered by climate change and hunting, Russia and the United States agreed to restrict the killing of polar bears to 29 per year for each country.

Prior to that, about 100 bears had been being killed in the United States, mostly by indigenous people, who claim that it’s vital to their culture and tradition, as well as to their economy.

For several years, Putin has been championing the cause of endangered large animals. He’s helped put tracking devices on the bears, joined scientists in studying the gray whale, and last November he led a summit meeting, attended by government representatives from 13 countries to discuss how to save endangered tigers.

This week, Putin issued a statement on his web site, saying that the government has decided against using its quota of animals in the region around the Bering Strait that it shares with the United States.

Russian P.M. Putin (right) assists in the tagging of a polar bear

Polar bears have become a symbol of climate change as environmentalists have argued that warmer temperatures have caused sea ice to melt, which has led to the death of some of the bears. As the ice melts, the bears have to swim farther to find suitable habitat and it takes much longer to find a meal. The loss of sea ice also impacts seals, who are the main source of food for polar bears. Current estimates are that there may only be 20,000 to 25,000 of them left.

According to The Moscow Times,the decision has more to do with the government’s inability to reign in poaching than it has to preserving the bears. Either way, it will be more beneficial to the bears than officially allowing the hunting to continue.

What do you say? Indigenous people in Alaska say that hunting polar bears is part of their economy, culture and tradition? Does that give them the right to kill them? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.

What you can do: Polar Bears International is doing good work to study and save the bears. Of course, what’s putting them most in danger is the warming of the planet and the melting of the ice – and that’s a larger topic.