Why am I writing about polar bears ? I reposted an article that I wrote for the Gaian Times on-line magazine a year ago. The article outlined a conversation that I had with a fellow passenger on a bus about climate change. So I looked up some information on the scientific view on how quickly this is progressing. Extremely fast. Faster than previously thought is the answer. Then I got to thinking about polar bears. I remember writing a small piece on them when I was at Junior School. I guess we had to choose an animal or subject to research and I chose the polar bear.
I have lost my original piece but I recall being amazed to find out that polar bear fur is yellow and I was fascinated how they lived in such a cold icy place.
Then of course, during my younger years, I used to watch the Fox’s Glacier Mints advertisements. Peppy was the polar bear who was the mascot and icon for the sweets. He was put on the sweet packaging in 1922. I did not know and was quite horrified to discover today that Fox’s actually commisioned a taxidermist to shoot a real polar bear and stuff it and that this animal was displayed at public events like football matches and carnivals to advertise the mints. It is said that Fox’s Confectionary gradually introduced up to 4 more animals to the display. That was before my time so I did not see these exhibitions thankfully.
Once televison advertising was born in the 1960s Rowntrees took over the company and sensibly realised that this exhibition was politically incorrect and the public exhibition was halted. They just went with the TV commercials and the cartoon bear on top of a sweet because the product was clear, cool and minty.
But the original Peppy, who we are told was 4 ft 11″ tall and 6 ft 7″ long, was donated to the New Walk Museum in Leicester, the home of Fox’s Confectionery. The brand manager allegedly reported that they found it in the rear of their building and did not put it in reception because it might alarm the customers as it was gory! The museum took 6 years to restore it (the fitting restoration would have been to bring it back to life) and then put it on display at an exhibtion from 24th January to 5th April 2009. (see Wikipedia)
In 2007, Fox’s Glacier Mints brought back the polar bear cartoon characters in a TV campaign voiced by theatre star Simon Callow. Peppy (along with a fox character) was modernised and carried a mobile phone and MP3.
The Mail On-Line on 14th June 2012 printed a photo of a polar bear perched on a piece of ice that mirrored the Fox’s Peppy poses. They used this picture to show the plight of the polar bear. The World Wildlife Fund is compiling an Earth Book and has been urging people to upload photos and tales of animals, rivers and forests that they want to see protected and preserved for future generations. The other pictures featured are so poignant and the sight of them should send chills down the spine of all except the most coldhearted of us.
So what is the future for polar bears now that the ice is melting at a faster rate than predicted? It is not a gradual change. To adapt as a species, surely, the environment needs to change very gradually.
I found an excellent but very worrying feature called “Polar Bears and Climate Change” by Andrew E. Derocher written in May 2008. You can google it. http://www.actionbioscience.org/environment/derocher.html
I will just outline his arguments briefly:
Contemporary bear species evolved 22 million years ago from a common ancestor called the Ursavus of Asia. Polar bears or Ursus maritimus evolved from a group of brown bears (Ursus arctos) over 200,000 years ago. This group evolved differently because they became physically separated from he brown bears by glaciers, possibly in Siberia.
Polars are very different from the brown bears of the species. These differences are crucial. Polars are carnivores and their main food is seals. Crucially, they need sea ice in order to hunt and breed. A study on the effects of climate change on polar bears in western Hudson Bay found that deterioration in their body condition, reproduction, and survival resulted in a 22% reduction in subpopulation size between 1987 and 2004. That is horrendous.That is only 17 years. As the ice is breaking up they have to travel further for food. Some do not make it and drown and some are resorting to cannibalism. This is how desperate their battle for survival is. They had no time to adapt.
Apparently some people have suggested that the polar bears will adapt to live on the land. This, say the experts is not plausible. I would suggest that it is just wishful thinking stemming from a deep seated guilt on our species’ part, so deeply seated that we cannot consciously articulate it.
Smack yourself in the gob with reality. The polar bear is a highly specialized species that became highly suited to its sea and ice environment over a period of 200,000 years. Importantly if they could so adapt, they would be in direct competition with the brown bears who have adapted to life on the land in that region, which includes the grizzly bear. So you would have increased interspecies contact and aggression , a rise in cannibalism, increased boundary and territorial movement, increased encounters with humans. All of these factors would lead to a decrease in survival rates of adults and young. All of these factors threaten the continuation of the polar bear species.
So, I come to the end of my second look at the polar bears during my lifetime. My first research into them was over 40 years ago in Junior School. 40 years is a long time in my life but it should be a very short, insignificant amount of time in terms of climate change and the planet. But alas, it is not. I am frankly fearful of how the polar bear story will unfold and what I will be writing next time I look at them…
Polar Bear Story to be continued…..?….
I am adding to this on November 29th as there is a communication that I would love you to sign. http://bit.ly/Tt1DUJ
Just copy and paste the link and you will be taken to the Humane Society International page. Follow the instructions from there.
These are the words of Mark Jones, Executive Director Of HSI
by Mark Jones
We all know that polar bears are under threat, that their habitat is melting, that they are suffering from the effects of climate change.
But did you know that it is still legal to commercially trade these magnificent, but vulnerable, animals?
Six hundred polar bears are shot every year in Canada and many of their body parts, including skins, fur, teeth and claws, are then bought and sold on the open market, to satisfy consumer demand.
- A polar bear skin can fetch in the region of £63,000.
- It is estimated that 5,680 polar bears were internationally traded between 2001 and 2010, with Canada exporting more than 3,200 skins, 861 trophies, 284 bodies and five live animals.
- The cost of a polar bear skin on the retail market in Russia is estimated at £63,000 (100,000 USD) and in China at £40,000 (63,000 USD).
- The price of skins at trade auctions has more than doubled from 2007 to 2012.
- In the same period, there was a 375% increase in the number of skins offered at auction – from 40 in 2007 to 150 in 2012.
- According to the US Geological Survey two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be lost by 2050.
- Polar bears currently number 20,000—25,000 individuals worldwide, the population is decreasing and is expected to continue to do so.
- Canada’s population of polar bears is numbered at 15,000. Each year 600 are hunted, and body parts from more than half of those animals find their way to market to be sold commercially.
Polar bears are already under threat of extinction from climate change, making each animal that much more precious and its loss that much more significant.
The irresponsible killing of this threatened species must be stopped now!
The US uplisting proposal
A proposal by the United States, supported by Russia, to increase the protection of polar bears by moving them from Appendix II to Appendix I will be voted on at the upcoming meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to be held in March 2013.
It is vital that this proposal receives widespread international support.
A similar proposal was defeated at the last CoP, in 2010. Opposition to the proposal by the 27 Members of the European Union was a crucial factor in this defeat — had the EU voted in favour of the proposal it would have been carried and the polar bear would already be protected.
UK government ministers and officials are discussing this issue now and will be meeting with their European counterparts in the coming weeks to agree a joint position in the next few weeks. The European Union votes as a block at CITES meetings, so the outcome of their deliberations is crucial and the UK can have a large influence on the outcome.
Live in the UK? Please take action—
Write to environment minister Richard Benyon today!
Please note, if you are not from the UK you can still sign. You just need to go to CITIES.
Rose Dixon (the photo at the top is of a snow creation of mine from 2011. It was supposed to be a snow polar bear but the nose would not stay on)
From N R D C
“President Obama, with Russian support, has announced that the U.S. will propose a ban on the global trafficking in polar bear parts at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in March 2013. But key European nations are still on the fence about stronger polar bear protection — and their votes will decide the outcome.
Call on U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to lead the European Union to a Yes vote that will end the deadly trafficking in polar bears once and for all!
Hundreds of polar bears are killed
and sold each year on the world market.
You can be a voice for the polar bears by at https://secure.nrdconline.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2939&__utma=57662376.574993409.1357965304.1357965304.1357965304.1&__utmb=576623184.108.40.2067965304&__utmc=57662376&__utmx=-&__utmz=57662376.135796
More polar bear information http://grist.org/news/court-polar-bear-habitat-that-interferes-with-oil-drilling-has-to-go/