The other day, I got a call from an international journalist who admitted he’d done no research into the polar bear issue but believed, based on media reports he’d heard, that there must only be about 100-200 bears remaining in the Arctic. I know he’s not alone.
This journalist was utterly astonished to learn that the IUCN Red List assessment in 2015 put the polar bear population total at 22,000-31,000 bears and demanded proof that this was true.
Here is a summary of the Red List report, with references and links to the report:
The 2015 IUCN Red List assessment update for polar bears (published 18 November 2015) states that the global polar bear population is 22,000 – 31,000 (26,000), that the current trend is ‘unknown’ and that there is only a 70% chance that polar bear numbers will decline by 30% in 35 years (with virtually zero chance that the numbers will decline by 80% or more by 2050) – in other words, zero chance of extinction. [Detailed in a document called 22823 Ursus maritimus]. It classifies the polar bear as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction based on predictions of future sea ice decline due to global warming [similar to ‘threatened’ by other organizations] Pdf here.
Below is a list of what truly worrying species declines look like: that is, animals whose numbers have actually declined, no prophesies involved (Adler 2008).
Posted in Advocacy, Conservation Status, Population, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Amur tiger, climate change, decline, elephant seal, endangered, extinction, facts, fur seal, global warming, gray whale, hooded seal, IUCN, polar bear, predictions, projections, prophesy, rare species, Red list, sea ice, sea otter, Siberian tiger, status, Steller sea lion, threatened, vulnerable
The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group admits its global population estimate is simply a qualified guess with a large potential error. So perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that for the purpose of comparing polar bears to other species of concern, the upper limit for polar bear numbers worldwide could be more than 30,000?
See previous posts on this global population size issue (here and here); updated information below, including the most recent IUCN PBSG statement.
UPDATE 1 September 2015: here is an updated graph of polar bear population numbers that undo the “subtractions” of the PBSG between 2001 & 2013, giving a final global estimate of about 26,000. Click to enlarge:
UPDATE 25 November 2015: The 2015 update of the IUCN Red List for polar bears essentially concurs with my assessment about polar bear numbers. They estimate the current global population is 20,000-31,000 (average of 25,500, see below, without considering the number of bears in the Arctic Basin, so not far off my assessment) but say the trend in the population is “Unknown.”
UPDATE 23 February 2017: A new population estimate update is available based on three new survey counts that add about 2,000 bears to the average total, bringing it to almost 30,000 (28,500). Details here.
Posted in Conservation Status, Population
Tagged Amur tiger, endangered, IUCN, PBSG, polar bear, Polar Bears International, polarbearscience, population estimate, science, Siberian tiger, snow leopard, threatened, white rhino