Category Archives: Conservation Status

Zoos abrogate their position of trust by misleading the public about polar bears

Since at least 2007, zoos around the world have proudly partnered with climate change activist organization Polar Bears International to ‘educate’ the public about the plight of polar bears. Although contrary to all expectations, polar bear numbers have increased slightly since the abrupt decline of sea ice in 2007 yet zoos are still promoting the false message that polar bears have already been gravely harmed by lack of sea ice.

CTV News on pb sightings Labrador as climate change warning

A news clip that aired on Canadian television in April 2019 was ostensibly about recent sightings of polar bears in Labrador (which I discussed here). But it digressed rapidly into a baseless diatribe about polar bears as victims of climate change, delivered by an animal keeper from the Toronto Zoo presented as an ‘expert’ on this topic.

See it here (about 4 minutes long).

And while I have no doubt that Toronto Zoo curator Maria Frankie is indeed an expert in keeping mammals in captivity, she appears to have zero qualifications to speak with any critical scientific authority on climate change, sea ice variability, or polar bear survival in the wild.

Frankie is complicit in spreading misinformation about polar bears to an unwary public (including children) as a method of spurring political action on climate change as surely as David Attenborough is to blame for spreading misinformation about Pacific walrus. She is being used by PBI but is too naive to realize it.

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Video exposé of the groundless Netflix bid to elevate walrus to climate change icon

Last month, Netflix and WWF released a collaborative nature documentary that contained an egregiously: that Pacific walrus are being forced ashore by global warming where they suffer staggering population losses. But this is a story the film producers and WWF concocted for their own purposes, not a statement supported by scientific fact.

Video title screen

Over the last month, pointed questions have been asked about what really happened in Siberia while the film crew was there – and what didn’t. Scientific documents support the conclusion that Pacific walrus are currently thriving, have not been harmed by recent sea ice losses, and are not expected to be harmed in the foreseeable future, see here, here, here, and here.  This new video explains it all.

Netflix, Attenborough and cliff-falling walruses: The making of a false climate icon

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Stop lying to children about dying polar bears as a way to achieve action on climate change

The heartbreaking story of dying polar bears, told for more than a decade now, was meant to get kids on board the global warming action train. It worked a treat – except that it was never true. The lie gave sensitive children nightmares and turned others into political activists full of groundless outrage who now pointlessly rant in the streets.

BBC video screencap with Thunberg video quoting starving pb images_23 April 2019

As the established icon of climate change and Arctic habitats, polar bears have been given centre stage in the climate change narrative presented to young children and their teachers. But the distressing tale of polar bears on the brink of extinction – dying for our fossil fuel sins – was never true, as I show in point form below. Polar bear lies form the foundation of the baseless political activism of Greta Thunberg that other youngsters have since emulated.

Here are some of the false ‘facts’ children have been taught:

  1. Polar bears are an endangered species and only a few hundred still exist
  2. Polar bears numbers are declining
  3. Polar bears now spend months on land because of climate change
  4. There is not enough sea ice for polar bears: no sea ice, no polar bears
  5. A bear falling through thin ice will drown & become a victim of climate change
  6. Any skinny polar bear is a victim of climate change

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My opinion piece in the Financial Post on Netflix splattering walrus film footage

Netflix is lying about those falling walruses. It’s another ‘tragedy porn’ climate hoax

Opinion: Netflix and the WWF are misleading the public in the name of climate change — just as National Geographic did with the emaciated polar bear  [24 April 2019]

read it here.

Netflix is lying_FP headline 24 April 2019

I’ll post the full text in a few days for those who hit a paywall: see it here.

Just a reminder of the geographic locations of the action in the Russian portion of the Chukchi Sea: The cliff where the falling walruses were filmed was at Cape Kozhevnikov and the beach haulout of >100,000 animals was almost certainly Cape Serdtse-Kamen. There is often another haulout at Vankarem, described in the USGS Pacific walrus coastal haulout database.

Chukotka walrus haulouts map with inset

Even with Inuit lives at stake, polar bear specialists make unsupported claims

The standoff between Inuit and polar bear specialists regarding the status of polar bears in Canada is not going to end until someone in authority demands to see the data scientists insist contradict Inuit knowledge.

Macleans to kill a polar bear headline 21 April 2019

An article in Maclean’s Magazine (15 April 2019), entitled “To Kill a Polar Bear”, explores some of the feelings and opinions of folks involved but fails to ask whether the data support the rhetoric advanced by scientists. Author Aaron Hutchins takes the scientists at their word, that seeing more bears than 20 years ago is all because of lack of sea ice. However, from what I’ve seen, he might as well trust a fox in a hen house.

Ian Stirling is quoted by Hutchins insisting that polar bears in Western Hudson Bay continue to suffer from the effects of declining sea ice, without mentioning that ice cover has been essentially static on Hudson Bay since at least 2001 (Castro de al Guardia et al. 2017; Lunn et al. 2016) and fall freeze up dates for the last two years were earlier than most years in the 1980s:

“This year saw the seventh-lowest Arctic sea ice levels since the National Snow and Ice Data Center first started gathering satellite data 40 years ago, with the long-term trend clearly downwards. And the negative effects on polar bears can be clearly seen in the science, says Stirling, pointing to the closely studied subpopulation along western Hudson Bay: “They’re losing body condition. Reproductive rates have dropped. Survival rates of young have plummeted. Every indication you would expect from a declining population is there.”

However, as I’ve pointed out previously (last year and in 2012), there are no recent data published that support these claims: the only information that exists is at least 25 years old. And the fact that no such data have been published suggests strongly that it either does not exist or does not show what Stirling claims it shows.

Yet, the government of Canada is willing to bet the lives of Inuit on their belief that polar bear specialists would never stretch the truth to qualify for government grants.

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OK in the 80s but not now: ‘seeing more polar bears means there are more bears’

Wait for it, it will come: backlash from polar bear scientists for a statement by an Inuk bear safety guide in Labrador, reported by the CBC yesterday. The guide said there are more polar bears now than there were 25 years ago based on the fact that he is seeing more bears and that more bears mean more trouble with bears, including attacks on people. As I point out in my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, only in the 1980s did biologists admit that seeing more bears meant there were actually more bears.

polar-bear-black-tickle_Edwin Clark submitted to CBC no date

This bear visited Black Tickle in Labrador a few years back. Edwin Clark photo.

It has not been OK anywhere else in the world over the last few years to suggest that seeing more bears meant more bears, whether you were Inuk or not – whether describing a subpopulation that’s officially ‘increasing’ or not.

According to biologist Andrew Derocher (University of Alberta), who famously said last year that ‘you can’t equate seeing more bears with there being more bears,’ all of the increased sightings and problems with bears in Labrador and Newfoundland are due to poor ice conditions. His colleague Ian Stirling (also University of Alberta) similarly puts the blame for increased polar bear/human conflicts and fatal attacks in Nunavut on a ‘shortage of ice‘. For polar bear specialists, it’s always ‘less ice‘, never ‘more bears.’

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Latest global polar bear abundance ‘best guess’ estimate is 39,000 (26,000-58,000)

It’s long past time for polar bear specialists to stop holding out for a scientifically accurate global estimate that will never be achieved and determine a reasonable and credible ‘best guess’. Since they have so far refused to do this, I have done it for them. My extrapolated estimate of 39,000 (range 26,000-58,000) at 2018 is not only plausible but scientifically defensible.

Polarbear1_wikimedia_Andreas Weith photo Svalbard sm

In 2014, the chairman of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) emailed me to say that their global population size number ‘has never been an estimate of total abundance in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand.’

In my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, I contend that this situation will probably never change, so it’s time to stop holding out for a scientifically accurate global estimate and generate a reasonable and credible ‘best guess’. Recent surveys from several critical polar bear subpopulations have given us the information necessary to do this.

UPDATE: I have made this a sticky post for a while: new posts will appear below.

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