2013: The Year of the Polar Bear
A recent study published in Germany reveals that polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have been around for about 600,000 years on planet. But though old, the species is in serious danger of disappearing, being classified as vulnerable on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
In an attempt to draw attention to the necessity to increase efforts to preserve the polar bear, the WWF International proclaimed 2013 as the International Year of the Polar Bear. Not coincidentally the date coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears - a concerted international action to protect this magnificent species and its habitat, which was signed in May 1973, in Norway, by the five polar bear range states - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States.
The idea is that these nations, with the help of the scientific community around the world, begin to mobilize more intensely to ensure the animal survival, at least for four decades. "This is a decisive year for the species. Warming is the greatest enemy of the polar bear, whose life is inseparable from the ice," said Geoff York, a specialist in species conservation at WWF, during announcement of the International Year of the Polar Bear.
Since the signing of the Agreement on Conservation, Denmark, United States, Norway, Russia and Canada - the country that holds 60% of polar bears that exist on the planet - funded a scientific research to identify the most vulnerable populations of the species and also established protected areas for the animal.
The range states must be prepared for the new challenges ahead. These countries can ensure polar bear populations remain healthy by committing to habitat protection, addressing climate change, managing harvest, mitigating Arctic industrial development and funding polar bear research.