Polar Bear birthday marked on 29 December

Polar Bear birthday marked on 29 December

30 December 2015

Environmentalists have been celebrating polar bears’ birthday on 29 December for eight years. This date was chosen after experts established that about 5,000 bear cubs are born in cosy bear dens in the Arctic in the last days of the outgoing year.


The special day was announced in 2008 on the initiative of the Marine Mammal Council and Russia’s WWF. Newborn bear cubs are only about 30 cm tall and weigh about 500 grams. They stay with their mums until they turn two and then grow into the largest land predators on Earth. A mature polar bear weighs 750 kg.


Climate change and ice melting are a threat to polar bears. According to some forecasts, the area of Arctic icebergs where these animals live may shrink by 40 percent in the next decades. Polar bears are also badly affected by poachers and ocean pollution.


After the shocking incident with a female polar bear on Wrangel Island, millions of Russians have learned about another threat to the Arctic predators – the increasing economic activity in the Arctic and the large number of untrained people who do not know how to behave around polar bears and violate safety rules. This is why conflicts with polar bears are becoming more frequent, with the animal or, less often, man falling victim to the clashes.


“Such conflicts happen quite a lot in the Russian Arctic,” said Vladimir Krever, WWF Russia biodiversity coordinator. “These incidents are not caught on camera, information doesn’t reach the public though such clashes are not rare, and some incidents are even more outrageous than the one that took place on Wrangel Island.”


The Polar Bear Patrol of Russia’s WWF has been operating for nine years, and its main goal is to prevent conflicts between humans and polar bears. The patrol works in several littoral villages of Chukotka and Yakutia, and a network of observation posts have been opened in 15 villages, six weather stations, and seven natural protected areas from Kolguyev Island in the west of the Russian Arctic to the Bering Strait in the east of Russia.


“We congratulate our good partners, residents of the littoral Arctic villages, participants in the Polar Bear Patrol project, who help us to protect polar bears from the numerous man-made threats,” said Viktor Nikiforov, head of the Polar Bear Patrol programme. “Only together can we preserve the polar bear,” he said.


The polar bear’s birthday should not be confused with International Polar Bear Day marked on 27 February on the initiative of the Polar Bears International organisation. But these dates share the same purpose – to attract more public attention to protecting the rare animal.


The global polar bear population totals 21,000-25,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Russian part of the Arctic accounts for 5,000-7,000 polar bears.


(Photo © Maxim Deminov)