Interior Department urges stronger international protections for polar bears

Defenders of Wildlife supports move to increase polar bear protection

(10/16/2009) -

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Interior’s announcement today of proposed measures to stop the international trade of polar bears and bear parts is seen by conservationists as a major step forward in the effort to protect the iconic animal already seriously threatened by global warming.

Defenders of Wildlife’s president Rodger Schlickeisen praised the Obama administration and the Department of the Interior for submitting the proposal to next year’s meeting of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will be held in Doha, Qatar on March 13-25 next year.

“While we cannot immediately stop global warming from ravaging the polar bear’s sea ice habitat, one thing we can do quickly is to address the other threats to the imperiled animal, such as their commercial trade,” Schlickeisen said. “By strengthening protections for polar bears under CITES, we can give the polar bear some relief, while we take the necessary steps to combat global warming. The leadership at Interior, in office only a short time, has lots of issues demanding attention. Wildlife advocates should be very grateful to them for elevating this decision in such a timely manner.”

The proposal would transfer the polar bear from CITES Appendix II, which allows regulated international commercial trade, to Appendix I, which prohibits all international commercial trade in the listed species. The purpose of CITES is to prevent over-exploitation of species through international trade.

The Appendix I designation would mean that countries agree to prohibit international trade for primarily commercial purposes and thus ensure that it will not contribute to the ongoing decrease in polar bear numbers. Appendix I listing will not affect native subsistence hunting or use of polar bears.

Learn more about what Defenders is doing to help polar bears.

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James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0247