Polar Bear Patrol’s work yields result

Polar Bear Patrol’s work yields result

16 March 2015

Polar bears are increasingly falling victim to poaching. Pelts are worth upwards of 2 million roubles (roughly 30,000 euros). There have been no convictions for poaching since 2007, despite the fact that up to 50 pelts are traded online each year – a clear sign for some that they can break the law with impunity, and make good money doing it.


The Arctic is a vast swath of land spanning thousands of kilometres, and there is simply no way to deploy police officers to every village, or monitor every square kilometre. What is needed is a large-scale, methodical effort to educate the public, identify polar bear routes, close down channels of illegal trade, and work with local customs and police officers. This is what the Polar Bear Patrol has been doing. The project’s director Victor Nikiforov says that their tireless efforts have already produced results: criminal cases have been opened in Yakutia and the Nenents and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous areas, after a dead polar bear was found and several pelts were seized.


A number of very important amendments to poaching laws were made last autumn. Now, not only poaching itself, but the transfer, storage and sale of pelts is illegal, which has simplified the work of law enforcement. 


“Catching a poacher in the act out there on the ice is nearly impossible. It requires a lot of luck, and even then they could say they had found the pelt somewhere and get off with a fine of just 2,000 roubles. Now, if a person is found storing, shipping or trying to sell a pelt, he faces a fine of up to 1 million roubles,” Nikiforov said.