Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

UK joins pledge to save polar bear

The "I'm there for the polar bear" campaign launched by Humane Society International is gathering momentum. The UK's Environment Minister Richard Benyon has pledged the support of his Department to support efforts to ban trade in polar bears and their body parts.

LONDON (28 Jan. 2013) - Humane Society International/UK is delighted to welcome a pledge from DEFRA's Environment Minister Richard Benyon that the United Kingdom will support efforts to ban international global trade in polar bears and their parts. This is a significant step forward for HSI's "I'm There For The Polar Bear" campaign, aimed at ending the killing of hundreds of polar bears whose parts are traded every year on the global market as rugs, trophies and ornaments.

 Environment Minister declares support for ban on international trade in polar bear products

HSI/UK's campaign involves intensive lobbying, public petitioning and an open letter to Benyon signed by a host of celebrities including Joseph Fiennes, Bear Grylls and Brain Blessed urging the Minister to be a champion for polar bears by supporting the U.S. proposal to afford the species Appendix I protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

"Humane Society International/UK applauds Richard Benyon for clearly indicating his government's recognition of the precarious position in which this iconic species finds itself, and the need for us to do all we can to protect polar bears against any threat to their survival," said HSI/UK's Executive Director Mark Jones. "We now urge Mr Benyon to promote his strong stance to his European Union counterparts and other CITES parties. With UK backing, the U.S. proposal to give polar bears maximum protection against international trade has a much stronger chance of success, but the battle to help these animals is not over yet. We must continue to secure every 'yes' vote possible before the CITES meeting in Bangkok in March."In a statement to the media, Benyon confirmed: "The UK has a strong track record in leading international efforts to control the trade in endangered species. We support the U.S. objective to conserve polar bears and we are actively working with the US and other countries for a ban on trading of polar bear pelts as we believe this will help safeguard the species."

International commercial trade is a major threat to polar bear survival, second only to loss of habitat from climate change. Canada is the only country in the world that still permits international trade in these animals, hundreds of whom are hunted for the global market every year. The U.S. - which over the last decade has been the world's largest importer of polar bear parts -- has proposed awarding maximum Appendix I protection for polar bears under CITES. European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Germany and the UK also import. Some 568 polar bear parts were legally imported into the UK in the last decade.

The CITES trade database shows that between 2001 and 2010, 32,350 polar bear specimens (dead or alive, and their parts) were traded internationally, including 4,327 skins, 3,080 skin pieces, and more than 5,700 claws and teeth. The numbers of polar bear hides offered at Canadian auctions has increased from 40 in 2007, to 150 in 2012. High prices are paid for hides, particularly in China and Russia where skins have reportedly fetched as much as USD 63,000 (£39,337) and USD 100,000 (£62,430), respectively.

Humane Society International/UK and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide

Source: HSI