Polar bear pelts getting costlier

Polar bear pelts getting costlier

23 March 2016

Throughout 2015, WWF Russia was monitoring illegal online trade. As this was its 10th survey since 2003, specialists could identify changes in the dynamics.  


Overall, 53 advertisements for the sale of polar bear pelts – an all-time high – were found, compared to 38 advertisements found during the previous survey conducted over a longer period of 2013 and 2014


The increase in the number of advertisements found during the survey may be partly ascribed to changes in the monitoring procedure. Previously, surveys were conducted once a year, and in 2015, monitoring was conducted on a quarterly basis. According to experts, the changes in the monitoring procedure helped identify 30 percent to 40 percent more advertisements on the internet. However, this is not the only reason for such dramatic growth.   


Prices of illegal polar bear pelts remain high, with the average price for a pelt reaching $20,000, or 1.5 million roubles.


“Despite the introduction of a more severe punishment for trafficking and the increased number of legal proceedings initiated against this type of violation, so far, we’ve failed to reverse the situation,” said Viktor Nikiforov, head of WWF Russia’s Polar Bear Patrol. “However, the police, particularly in the Nenets and Yamal-Nenets autonomous areas, have been doing better, catching not only more poachers but pelt sellers as well.”


In 2015 and early 2016, sellers of polar bear pelts in the Yamal-Nenets and Nenets autonomous areas were brought to trial for the first time. The courts found four people guilty, of whom three persons were included in the amnesty and one was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.  


In February of 2016, the Novy Urengoi police seized a polar bear pelt, the price of which was set by the sellers at 600,000 roubles.