I’m VERY skeptical of National Wildlife Federation’s claim that these polar bears dug into the soil to cool down. NWF claims that these particular bears were over heated and needed to cool down their body temperatures. Cute, but I don’t believe it for a second! Here’s the description of these pics from the the NWF’s bleeding-heart blog post:
The heat-stressed polar bears were digging holes in the dirt, trying to stay cool by lying on the permafrost below. The photos were taken by Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. He just returned from the Hudson Bay in Canada, where he and scientists observed the polar bears. His polar bear photos are available for sharing (credit the National Wildlife Federation).
Wrong. This is exactlyhow polar bears sleep. They dig shallow holes to curl up in, hold their backs against the wind, and nap for about 8 hours.
Misleading blog posts like the above contribute to science illiteracy. The NWF should show 1) that these particular bears don’t normally sleep like this. After all, this is how polar bears sleep - explain why are these bears an exception. 2) Show the baseline data that these particular bears were in fact heat stressed. These guys look fat and healthy. 3) Show that these bears actually cooled off after their nap. In the least, show a correlation between heat stress and cooling off vis a vis digging a hole. And 4) show where and how the bears learned this behavior. After all, temperatures do swing in the Arctic. Polar bears are prepared for these normal swings.
I just see polar bears doing their normal sleepy time. And that these photos were taking from a helicopter on a long-lens, which tells me the bears weren’t actually baselined nor studied.
I’ve left a note for the blog post’s author to clarify and will post an update.
As predicted by chemistry, change in the Arctic Ocean is accelerating as temperatures warm faster than the global average, as the sea ice melts, as northern rivers run stronger and faster, delivering more fresh water farther into the northernmost ocean, and as we continue blasting an ever increasing quantity of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, a new report from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), presents these 10 key findings:
Dr. Mark Brandon, a Polar Oceanographer (@icey_mark), discusses how humans impact the Arctic. It’s a high-level talk, meaning it’s easy to follow and not very sciencey. He makes much use of the fact that fire retardants are routinely found in the fat of polar bears and other animals to show how our pollution travels north.
“At the 178-nation Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting, Burkina Faso and Kenya cited the “merciless slaughter of elephants” in their attempt to extend to a wider group of nations a pledge from some countries not to sell ivory stockpiles before 2016.
But the proposal was seen as legally flawed by many delegates and failed to get support.
But Tom Milliken, head of the elephant and rhino team at wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said he was more optimistic than ever that tough action would still be taken. “This time people are listening because everything is pointing in the same direction: poaching is up to a record high, as is illegal ivory trading and elephants seem to be down,” he said. About 25,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2012.
At the Cites talks, 19 nations face bans on all wildlife trade unless they crack down on the poaching, smuggling or sale of illegal ivory. The summit is also considering compulsory forensic testing of seized tusks, so the criminal chain can be traced and compulsory reporting of stockpiles of ivory, to prevent corruption or thefts.
Separately, Kenya attempted to prevent the export of trophy-hunted rhino horns from South Africa. Vietnamese and east European gangs use the practice as a cover to feed the illegal Vietnamese market with the 1,000 horns a year it is demanding. But Milliken said that South Africa had already put an end to the “pseudo-hunting”. There are 20,000 white rhinos at present, he said, and despite more than 600 being poached in 2012, the population is rising.
Milliken said: “It is probably a good idea to keep these [trophy-hunting] incentives for private wildlife reserve owners at a time when they are having to spend more on protection from poachers.” He said, in contrast, Vietnam was doing extremely little to tackle rhino sales.
The Cites meeting did, however, unanimously raise the protection of the west African manatee to the highest level, overriding advice from officials that “scant” scientific data did not support the move.
The slow-moving creature, which can measure up to 4.5m long and weigh 350kg, is found in the coastal lagoons and rivers of 21 states, and can reach as far inland as Mali, Niger and Chad.
Illegal kills can raise $4,500 per animal and less than 10,000 remain. They are hunted for meat and oil, killed as by bycatch by fishermen and also suffer as their habitat is destroyed by mangrove harvesting, pollution and dams. The Cites conference also bid farewell to a series of extinct animals by removing them from protection lists, including Australia’s dusky flying fox, crescent nail-tail wallaby, buff-nosed rat-kangaroo and the pig-footed- and rabbit-eared bandicoots.”
Bid to ban international trade of Polar Bear parts fails
Today delegates at the CITES meeting in Thailand rejected the proposal to protect polar bears from the commercial trade of their body parts. The proposal was put forward by the US with support from Russia but was opposed by Canada, the only country to allow the exporting of polar bear parts.
Unfortunately the proposal failed to win the two-thirds needed to pass. The results ended with 38 countries voting in favour of the US proposal, 42 against and 46 refrained.
“Limiting commercial trade in this species would have addressed a source of non-climate stress to polar bear populations and contributed to long-term recovery,” said the statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Each year, an average of 3,200 items made from polar bears - including skins, claws and teeth - are reported to be exported or re-exported from a range of countries. Polar bear hides sell for an average of $2,000 to $5,000, while maximum hide prices have topped $12,000.”
The rejection of the proposal means that the export of polar bear skins, teeth and paws from Canada will continue.
The court rejected the argument that the 25,000 remaining polar bears, most of which live in relatively stable populations, were perfectly fine without “threatened species” status. But many scientists worry that the effects of climate change on the Arctic climate could prove dangerous for the remaining bears.
And it looks like polar bears may remain on that list for the foreseeable future, according to Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“So for practical purposes, the listing of the polar bear is final, and really no longer under any serious threat from these challenges.”
Male polar bear defending his interests in a female polar bear by fighting off a rival male to prevent him mating with his female. If I remember correctly the larger bear (one with blood on his fur) was the defender and was successful in seeing off his rival. ʕ´ᴥ`ʔ
Why do polar bears matter? The Pacific Standard Magazine has published one of the most moving pieces I’ve read in a long, long while. It’s long been known that polar bears are endangered, and that the core reason is loss of habitat - sea-ice.
The bears are unique. We revere them not just because they’re cute and cuddly. But because they are masters of the environment, masters of “child care,” and just overall really fucking resilient animals. They depend on sea-ice for hunting food on a seasonal basis, which is a hard concept to wrap our heads around. But the bottom line is that sea-ice is disappearing as the earth warms, and the bears are not adapting their hunting techniques as fast as the ice is melting.
So, again, why do they matter? Author Zach Unger speculates on the answer:
And what we notice when we stare at these bears is that they’re a lot like us. They’re smart and tough and they nurture their young. They’re cute and cuddly and unpredictably ferocious. They’re the top of the food chain, they’re without natural predators.
This isn’t some red-legged frog, warty and swamp-dwelling, that faces annihilation. This is a master predator, a carnivore, with hands and feet and hair. This bear is the boss. So when we think about polar bears going extinct, it’s not their absence that worries us; it’s our own. And because it’s our fault—and because it may be our future—the bears have become the most important animals on earth. After ourselves, of course.
Zach’s piece includes a slideshow, interactive maps and charts, and a video covering the challenges polar bears face. We are witnessing - indeed cataloging every step - of the polar bear’s extinction.
As we end 2012 and reflect on what has been, this article (one of the best I’ve read in a long while) is a sober glimpse into the future of what is to be.
The Obama administration today gave Shell Oil the initial approval to begin controversial and dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, despite the fact that a critical oil-spill containment vessel is still awaiting certification in Bellingham, Wash. Until now, the Arctic Ocean has largely been off limits to offshore drilling. Shell Oil is expected to begin the initial phases of exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea as soon as it can get its drillship in place, in the heart of habitat critical to the survival of polar bears.
“By opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling, President Obama has made a monumental mistake that puts human life, wildlife and the environment in terrible danger. The harsh and frozen conditions of the Arctic make drilling risky, and an oil spill would be impossible to clean up,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scariest of all, the Obama administration is allowing Shell to go forward without even having the promised oil-spill containment equipment in place.”