As I outlined earlier this week, Canadian Inuit objected so strenuously to routine mark-recapture methods used by polar bear biologists during the early days of a Foxe Basin population study in 2008 that the work was abandoned and an aerial survey done instead.
In this post, I’ll examine how the polar bear biologists involved reacted to that crisis, which they called a “control of research” issue.
In a published version of a conference paper, co-authored by two of the original investigators of the Foxe Basin mark-recapture study, Lily Peacock and Andrew Derocher (Peacock et al. 2011:374), had this to say:
“Control of research is a developing source of conflict. In recent years, some permits for management-oriented research on polar bears were denied by the Government of Nunavut, local hunting and trapping organizations in the Northwest Territories, and by Makivik Corporation in Quebec. Furthermore, in a 2009 resolution, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami opposed the capture of polar bears throughout Canada (available by request from http://www.itk.ca), even though the application of physical marks is one of the most effective methods of population estimation. Co-management is particularly difficult in Nunavut because of the large number of subpopulations (12), which makes it difficult to fund and conduct research.” [my bold]
They raised an interesting point – since the Government of Nunavut has the power to insist biologists do more than reiterate that their way of counting bears is the only acceptable way, and because the government can deny permits to projects that don’t measure up, it can lock out traditional polar bear research for virtually all of Canada (the vast majority of Canada’s 13 subpopulations are in Nunavut, see Fig. 1), especially since aboriginal organizations in the Northwest Territories and Quebec have followed Nunavut’s lead.
Figure 1. Territory covered by the Government of Nunavut (top, Wikipedia) and the 13 polar bear subpopulations in Canada (bottom, Environment Canada).
That means if polar bear researchers can’t find a way to make their research mesh with Inuit concerns, they’ll be out of work in Canada. Let’s take a look at their approach and see how well it worked for them — explaining in part the new prominence of aerial surveys for population assessments. Continue reading
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged aerial survey, Derocher, disrespectful, Government of Nunavut, handling, Inuit, mark-recapture, Peacock, polar bear, population assessments, population surveys
This follow-up to my last post has some new information about drug residues remaining in polar bear meat after the animals have been tranquilized.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population
Tagged 45 day wait, Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, Cattet, CBC, consume polar bear meat, drug residues in polar bear meat, Government of Nunavut, Health Canada, hunters, Inuit, polar bear, Telazol, Zoletil
Steve Amstrup has left a comment below his January 20, 2014 “starving polar bears’ article at The Conversation, which I discussed in my last post.
I’ve copied his comment below and the response to his comment that I left this morning, which is copied below his. See the entire comment sequence here.
Posted in Advocacy, History, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged activist scientists, advocacy, Amstrup, climate models, global warming, Polar Bears International, sea ice declines, sea ice extent, September sea ice, starving polar bears
As if on cue just before an important polar bear announcement, Steven Amstrup, full time employee of Polar Bears International (PBI), is crying “starving polar bears” yet again, with a laughable twist.
Over at “The Conversation” (a university supported forum for academics), in a piece titled “Cold weather in the US no solace for starving polar bears,” Amstrup uses his adjunct affiliation at University of Wyoming to unleash a bit of unpaid advertising for PBI’s alarmist message (I put it this way because while Amstrup does disclose his affiliation at PBI, he is more than just an affiliated member, he is their paid spokesperson).
Ironically, the headline photo (Fig. 1) is the notorious “Ursus bogus,” the photoshopped image used by the journal Science back in May 2010 to feature an article on the integrity of science, It was quickly exposed by Tim Blair at The Telegraph (also covered at WUWT), and the journal was obliged to acknowledge the error, replace the image and issue a correction.
In this case, commenter Brad Keyes at The Conversation defends the use of the “Ursus bogus” image with this astonishing statement [UPDATE Jan. 25/14: it has since transpired that this was almost certainly meant to be satire]:
“The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’—and readers’—attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.”
However, we now know that Amstrup is crying wolf — summer sea ice has been declining despite a hiatus in global warming and unusual numbers of polar bears are not starving. He seems to think that if he keeps repeating his Chicken Little message (with nary a recent photo of an actual starving polar bear) he will convince more people to believe him and donate to PBI. It’s his job to do so of course, so he’s not likely to stop. [pardon my mixed metaphor – Amstrup, if you recall, prefers a Titanic metaphor]
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Amstrup, extinction, global warming, hiatus, Polar Bears International, sea ice decline, starving polar bears, summer sea ice, threatened, Ursus bogus
Fabulous photos of 3 week old twin polar bear cubs (born December 9, 2013), have been released by the Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich, Germany. There’s video of the births as well. The newborn cubs are so tiny — it’s hard to imagine them being born in the dead of winter in a snow den!
All but one of the photos shown here, including the one above, are of the newborns at 3 weeks of age. The one below is a screen cap taken from the video of the birth, and is the only one that shows the cubs just hours old. They seem to have grown a bit in 3 weeks.
From this January 1, 2014 account (“Hellabrunn Zoo Welcomes Polar Bear Twins”):
“On December 9, a Polar Bear named Giovanna gave birth to two cubs at Munich’s Hellabrunn Zoo. Both births were seen on cameras installed in the birthing den and the connecting corridor to the main den. This is remarkable on two counts: for both births, Giovanna positioned herself so that she was directly in the cameras’ field of view. Secondly, this is the first time that a Polar Bear birth has been filmed in color worldwide!
The cubs were born at 08:39 and 09:43 respectively, to parents Giovanna (7) and Yogi (14). The zoo’s director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem, enthused, “It is as if we were there live watching the labour and birth of a Polar Bear and, as if that weren’t enough, Giovanna showed us not one, but two very different births!”
The two top posts I published this year had one thing in common – they exposed polar bear researchers dodging full disclosure of scientific information in a way that outraged a lot of people. These two posts still draw a regular crowd of readers.
#1. “Global population of polar bears has increased by 2,650-5,700 since 2001” (published July 15, 2013) – 8,786 views as of December 30.
#2. “Ian Stirling’s latest howler: the polar bear who died of climate change” (August 7, 2013) – 7,872 views as of December 30.
[Note that #3 was the summary essay, “Ten good reasons not to worry about polar bears” (February 26, 2013), at 5,491 views. Dr. Matt Ridley wrote a foreword introducing that essay (“We should be listening to Susan Crockford”) that appeared in Canada's Financial Post]
On this last day of the year, I thought I’d make an attempt to put these results into a wider perspective.
This time it was Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International (PBI), via a radio interview on Saturday December 28 “A Scientist’s New Job: Keeping The Polar Bears’ Plight Public.”
Amstrup – co-author of the models that predict the extinction of polar bears by the end of this century – had this to say about the polar bear situation in Hudson Bay:
“This year, the ice was frozen longer, so he says the bears seem to be in pretty good shape.
“But over the last two or three years, my impression has been, ‘Man, there’s a lot of skinny bears out here.’ “
On average, the sea ice in the Hudson Bay is frozen about a month less per year than it was 30 years ago. Amstrup says bears don’t eat much on land, so they lose about 2 pounds of body fat every day they’re off the ice.
“They’re 60 pounds lighter now than they might have been at this time of year 30 years ago,” he says.” [my bold]
For the last two or three years Amstrup has been seeing “a lot of skinny bears” but hasn’t taken a single photograph that he’s offered for publication or posted at PBI? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it – where are the photos of all the starving bears these guys keep talking about?
Here is a picture of a polar bear that was spending the summer on the shore of Western Hudson Bay 30 years ago, taken in July [bears were on the shore in July this year as well]. Continue reading
Ironically, just as I was about to remind readers that we are entering the peak period of polar bear births around the Arctic (see previous post, “December is polar bear nativity month”), I came across an article about breeding polar bears in captivity — getting the bears to give birth in zoos.
Hudson the polar bear cub is a zoo-born polar bear. He moved in January 2013 from the Toronto Zoo, where he was hand-raised after being rejected by his mother, to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg. The Assiniboine Park Zoo were also the recent recipients of a cub orphaned when its mother was shot after a polar bear attack in Churchill. Photo from Toronto Zoo.
The newspaper article I saw was all about how technically difficult the generation of polar bear cubs has been for the Toronto Zoo (Canada) but it was the premise for the breeding program itself that caught my attention: to save them from extinction.
The zoo is not waiting until the bears are down to the last few hundred (or even thousands) – no, the zoo is starting now, while polar bears are as plentiful as they have been in the last 40 years, to prepare for their demise.
Posted in Advocacy, Population
Tagged animal activists, Assiniboine Park Zoo, captive breeding, captivity, Hudson, polar bear, polar bear births, polar bear cubs, polar bears in winter, pregnancy, Stanley Park Zoo, Toronto Zoo
The ousting of WWF and their cohorts from meetings to which they had initially been invited is the real story (so far) coming out of the International Forum on Conservation of Polar Bears (December 3-6, Moscow). However, that incident never made the mainstream media, so few people will ever know it happened.
What the public did hear about was the uproar over a tweet.
On the last day of the meeting, Canada’s Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq drove home, in less than 140 characters and a photo, the point she and her contingent had been trying to make at the meeting.
A twitter storm erupted that got really nasty — and the media picked up on it. Within hours, newspapers across Canada had themselves a story.
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status
Tagged Derocher, Environment Canada, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Geoff Haskett, Leona Aglukkaq, photo-op, polar bear, tragedy porn, tweet, twitter storm, US Fish & Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Despite the fact that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) apparently provided a significant portion of the funding for the recently concluded International Forum on Conservation of Polar Bears (December 3-6, Moscow), it appears in the end they and their NGO cohorts were prevented from having an undue amount of influence at the meeting. For that we can thank the delegates of the five Arctic nations: three cheers for common sense!
This news did not emerge until late yesterday (Friday, Dec. 6), after the meeting had concluded: no mention was made of NGOs being excluded in the press releases and stories written before then. For example, see IUCN story, Dec. 5; WWF story, Dec. 4; Times of India report, Dec. 5 and this Arctic Journal story Dec. 6. There was nothing in any of them about NGOs and journalists being barred from parts of the meeting they thought they would be allowed to attend.
Note that biologist Mitch Taylor, booted-out of the Polar Bear Specialist Group because he did not agree with the group’s position on global warming, attended as part of the Canadian contingent (see list at the end of this post), which was a bit of a surprise. However, the exclusion from the meeting of WWF and their buddies is the big news as far as I’m concerned.
[The media seems more interested in the fallout from a twitter message sent on the final day of the meeting by Canada's Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq — more on that in my next post].
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status
Tagged Amstrup, Circumpolar Action Plan for Polar Bear Conservation, conservation, Environment Canada, environmental organizations, Humane Society International, Leona Aglukkaq, Mitch Taylor, NGOs, polar bear, Polar Bear Specialist Group, Polar Bears International, twitter storm, Vongraven, World Wildlife Fund, WWF