Misleading “State of the Polar Bear” graphic still not fixed

UPDATE FEBRUARY 19, 2014The misleading “State of the Polar Bear” graphic is now GONE (as of January 31, 2014). A new 2013 status table is offered by the PBSG here. It has detailed text explanations and harvest information, with references, hyperlinked to each subpopulation entry (“Press the subpopulation hyperlink and more information will appear“) and may have replaced the “State of the Polar Bear” graphic that the PBSG commissioned for upwards of US$50,000, although the PBSG website says it is being “updated [A pdf copy of the 2013 colour table is here, and my commentary on it is here.] I have left the original post as is, below.

This is an update regarding the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG)’s fancy, multilevel State of the Polar Bear web graphic that I discussed previously here, here, and here.

To refresh your memory, two points about this graphic stand out, both regarding polar bear population estimates:

1) The population estimates listed on the Nations map (copied below) add up to 22,600-32,000 – far higher than the official estimate of 20,000-25,000 polar bears worldwide.

2) The population estimates listed on the upper layer of the Subpopulation map add up to just 13,036 – not even close to the official estimate of 20,000-25,000 polar bears worldwide.

I got an email from PBSG Chairman Dag Vongraven on March 15, in which he said:

I just want to say that I still haven’t had time to review the new “web tool” properly, and I obviously need to find time to do this. The PBSG is reviewing all subpopulations this year, and new updated status reviews will be finalized by the end of the year.” [my bold]

Thinking perhaps that he might have gotten to that ‘chore’ since then, I held off commenting. But now, more than two weeks later, I can confirm that indeed, nothing on the graphic has changed. He seems unconcerned with the  misrepresentations to which I alerted him.

A screen-cap of the Nations page (copied below) reveals the numbers provided for polar bear population estimates by nation are the same as I reported when I alerted Vongraven to potential errors back in early January – almost 3 months ago. 

'State of the Polar Bear' graphic Nations> map, screen-cap April 1, 2013. Estimates given add up to 22,600-32,000, much higher than official estimate of 20,000-25,000.

‘State of the Polar Bear’ graphic Nations> map, screen-cap April 1, 2013. Estimates given add up to 22,600-32,000, much higher than official estimate of 20,000-25,000.

And it seems from Vongraven’s response that he probably will not bother to “review the new ‘web tool’ properly” any time soon and that we should perhaps not expect the graphic to be amended until the end of 2013.

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