Poachers caught after swapping a polar bear pelt for petrol

Poachers caught after swapping a polar bear pelt for petrol

27 May 2016

Two poachers who in August 2015 sold the pelt of an illegally hunted polar bear have been tracked down by the police of the Nenets Autonomous Area. The news service of the area’s Interior Ministry Department has reported that residents of the village of Varnek on Vaigach Island received 50 litres of petrol as payment for the pelt.


The first time the police cracked down on the island’s poachers was in 2014. WWF Russia experts and Federal Security Service border guards recorded two cases of polar bear poaching in just one day. Currently, the Interior Ministry is actively involved in anti-poaching activities.    


“In two years, WWF experts and the Nenets Autonomous Area police recorded five cases of illegal polar bear hunting on Vaigach Island, in four of which offenders were found,” said Viktor Nikiforov, head of WWF Russia’s Polar Bear Patrol project. “This scale of polar bear poaching on just one island shows that there is still plenty of work to do to protect this rare animal in the Russian Arctic.”


Since 2010, WWF Russia has been monitoring the situation on Vaigach Island. Surveys of the local population revealed that every year poachers hunted 10 to 15 polar bears, selling their pelts for 200,000 to 300,000 roubles each. Then dealers took the pelts via Anderma, the village of Karataika, and the cities of Naryan Mar or Vorkuta to Moscow and St Petersburg. In large cities, a polar bear pelt can fetch up to 1.5 million roubles or even two million roubles on the black market. 


(Photo © Vladimir Gayev)