1) Polar bears are a conservation success story
Their numbers have rebounded remarkably since 1973 and we can say for sure that there are more polar bears now than there were 40 years ago. Although we cannot state the precise amount that populations have increased (which is true for many species – counts are usually undertaken only after a major decline is noticeable), polar bears join a long list of other marine mammals whose populations rebounded spectacularly after unregulated hunting stopped: sea otters, all eight species of fur seals, walrus, both species of elephant seal, and whales of all kinds (including grey, right, bowhead, humpback, sei, fin, blue and sperm whales). Once surveys have been completed for the four sub-populations of polar bears whose numbers are currently listed as zero, the total world population will almost certainly rise to well above the current official estimate of 20,000-25,000 (perhaps to 27,000-32,000?).
2) The only polar bear subpopulation that has had a statistically significant decline in recent years is the one in
3) Polar bears in the
4) A survey by the
Dr Susan Crockford
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 and is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species.
Matt Ridley: We Should Be Listening To Susan Crockford
The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 13 March 2013
Foreword To Susan Crockford’s Ten Good Reasons Not To Worry About Polar Bears
In 1978 three friends and I spent six weeks camped in a valley in Spitsbergen. The possibility that we would meet a polar bear there, even in winter, let alone summer, was far-fetched and we slept soundly in our tents without taking any precautions. We used a nearby hut for shelter from the weather. Last year I enquired about using that hut again and was told that it was no longer habitable: ‘due to damages made by polar bears’.
The west coast of
The same organization claims that eight of the polar bear’s sub-populations are decreasing, but read its own website and you will find that this is based almost entirely on projections and mathematical models. The official data table and map says that two of these eight sub-populations are only ‘thought’ or ‘believed’ to be declining – entirely due to hunting; four are in decline only according to computer models, despite some claims by ‘traditional ecological knowledge’ (ie, locals) that they are thriving; one has more than doubled but is now said to be ‘currently declining’ because of crowding, not climate change; and only one showed a real decline. The latest data show that even that decline (in the
In other words, the claim that polar bear populations are declining at all, let alone due to climate change, is a manufactured myth, designed for media consumption and with
Much as I admire and like both men, I have to say that the evidence suggests that Lord Lawson’s account is closer to the truth. 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 that the population had risen to 20,000-25,000 bears. Had Sir David examined the text on the PBSG’s website he would have found that all but one of the eight sub-population declines he cited were in fact based on ‘beliefs’ or future projections. As demonstrated by another recent mistake in another television series, this time an exaggerated claim for temperature change in
Zac Unger documents in his recent book Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye, how polar bear ‘decline’ is now a large and lucrative industry and in places like Churchill, Manitoba, organisations like Polar Bears International cynically use the imagined plight of the bears to raise money, and push propaganda at young people about changing their lifestyles and those of their parents.
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,
an activist explains to Unger, having flown school children by helicopter to a bear-proof camp so they can emote by video-conference to schools across
All these big issues need a mascot and that’s what the polar bear is.
Yet as Unger discovered and Susan Crockford confirms, increasingly the local people in places like Churchill look on the carnival of tourists, journalists and scientists with bemusement, knowing full well that even there – in one of the most southerly polar bear populations of all – the evidence of a decline in numbers, or of the health of the bears, is threadbare or non-existent. How much more threadbare that evidence is farther north, where the bears’ greatest problem is usually too much ice and therefore too few seals, is poorly known. The ideal habitat for polar bears is first-year ice that lasts well into summer, when they feed on fat young seals. The fact that this ice thins or breaks up enough to allow seals to feed during the autumn keeps the seal population healthy. Four to five months of ice-free fasting in early autumn is not exceptional for polar bears and two to three months is quite normal. The recent trend in most of the
Many scientists have grown frustrated with the domination of the polar bear story by dogmatic propagandists and have begun to speak out. Susan Crockford is one of them: a zoologist who is independent of the alarm industry and therefore free to make up her own mind. In this valuable paper, she has done a fine job of documenting the actual facts of the case as far as they are known.