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The United States proposal to ban the sale of polar bear parts was struck down yesterday after a bitter fight at the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species conference in Thailand. The US representative argued that until we are able to get a handle on climate change, which threatens the 20,000 or so polar bears that still exist in the wild, hunting adds an “intolerable pressure” to the populations. But Canada, the sole exporter of polar bear skins, teeth and other parts, claims that there is insufficient scientific evidence that the animal is on the verge of extinction.

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Canada accused America of resorting to emotion rather than science in their bid to add the polar bear to the CITES list, while Terry Audla, president of the national organisation representing indigenous peoples of Arctic Canada, who opposes the ban on the grounds that the inuit people rely on selling polar bear hides to support themselves, accused the US of “… using the polar bear as a blunt tool to bring about climate change concerns – it is the perfect poster child,” The Guardian reports.

While some of the 178 countries attending the Bangkok summit did not attend to vote, 38 countries voted in favour of the US proposal, 42 voted against, and 46 abstained altogether.

Even conservation groups were split. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sided with Canada, saying that the CITES convention can only work if nations stick to the science, while both the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) supported the United States bid.

“The world has once again had a chance to take action to safeguard polar bears and failed,” said Jeffrey Flocken, North America director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “Each year that this iconic species is not protected to the fullest is another year closer to losing the polar bear forever.”

Via The Guardian

Image of CITES Secretariat via CITES Photostream