15 December 2011, 20:21

We must preserve the Arctic

We must preserve the Arctic

In the autumn, the area of the Arctic covered by ice decreased, reaching its historical minimum, which opened up ice-free Northern Shipping route. In view of this, there has been a surge in plans to develop the Arctic, which included developing its oil and gas fields.

In the autumn, the area of the Arctic covered by ice decreased, reaching its historical minimum, which opened up ice-free Northern Shipping route. In view of this, there has been a surge in plans to develop the Arctic, which included developing its oil and gas fields. Due to this growing threat to the fragile ecosystem in the region, the World Wildlife Fund’s Russian division declared 2012 the Year of the Arctic.

WWF Russia has urged the Russian government to undertake the leading role in the preservation of the Arctic by becoming a role model for the other countries in the region. It identified the most urgent issues which have to be solved in the coming year. The key task is to expand the conservation area in the Russian Arctic. The new conservation area will reach 2 million hectares which could be compared to the total areas of Israel and Slovenia.

We will lead an active fight against poaching of rare species of Arctic animals, says WWF-Russia Director, Igor Chestin.  

“The most well-known among these species are walrus and the polar bear. Understandably, it has been difficult for these animals to continue leading their habitual lifestyle because of the changes that are taking place in the region as a result of global warming. Consequently, it’s very important that people, who are to blame for the destruction of their natural habitat, take steps to protect it,” Igor Chestin said.

The polar bear in the Arctic is the largest land predator. Its body is more than 3 meters long and the weight of a male animal could reach up to 750 kg. Polar bears are great at swimming and diving, they can swim about ten kilometers in the open sea and can swiftly move on ice. About 21,000 polar bears live in the Polar Region, 6,000 of which live in the Russian Arctic. Because of the melting of the ice cap, many bears stay on land, says Alexei Kokorin, a coordinator for Russia’s WWF Climate Change Programme.

“Polar bears prefer to search for food at human rubbish tips rather than hunt for seals. Special “Bear Patrol” teams have been set up to avert conflict between humans and bears. These teams try to ensure that bears do not enter human settlements and frighten them off using rubber bullets or loudspeakers,” Alexei Kokorin said.

Moreover, the volunteers also fight against poachers, monitor bear population and raise the environmental awareness among local residents. A few days ago, the “Adopt a Bear” campaign was launched to support the “Bear Patrol” programme. WWF-Russia has called on companies and supporters to get involved in the “Adopt a Bear” programme and the raised will be used for the protection of and research on polar bears which have been included in the Red Book of endangered species. The price for adopting a polar bear will be 30,000 rubles. Of course, the animals’ guardians will “adopt” animals “remotely” not literally. Their participation in the programme will be confirmed by a certificate and a little statue of a polar bear made of paper-mache. At present, 500 such figures have been made, 50 of which were “adopted” by Coca-Cola.

WWF-Russia plans to promote the ratification of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and the adoption of the law on the protection of seas from oil spills. Besides, the fund initiated a number of ecosystem programmes for the development of the Arctic region.

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