Dr. Susan Crockford: "IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group says its global population estimate was "a qualified guess" ", PolarBearScience.com (30 May 2014)
Much as I like polar bears (who wouldn't?), I can't help being suspicious that their cuteness and cuddliness (at a distance!) makes them ideal "victims" for the global climate change supposedly caused (in large part) by carbon-dioxide-producing human beings. Maybe I'm wrong; I'm quite prepared to be. But a recent blog post by Dr. Susan Crockford (zoologist with published work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals, and an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia) does little to persuade me so.
According to Dr. Crockford, she recently received an email from Dr. Dag Vongraven, the current Chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG), informing her of a footnote they intend to include in the draft for their forthcoming Circumpolar Polar Bear Action Plan. Dr. Crockford emphasises in bold:
"As part of past status reports, the PBSG has traditionally estimated a range for the total number of polar bears in the circumpolar Arctic. Since 2005, this range has been 20-25,000. It is important to realize that this range never has been an estimate of total abundance in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand. It is also important to note that even though we have scientifically valid estimates for a majority of the subpopulations, some are dated. Furthermore, there are no abundance estimates for the Arctic Basin, East Greenland, and the Russian subpopulations. Consequently, there is either no, or only rudimentary, knowledge to support guesses about the possible abundance of polar bears in approximately half the areas they occupy. Thus, the range given for total global population should be viewed with great caution as it cannot be used to assess population trend over the long term."
Image source: "Threatened polar bear (Ursus maritimus)" by Susanne Miller/USFWS on Flickr (CC BY 2.0); resized, cropped