CBC Digital Archives

Polar bears need conservation

It prowls the globe's frozen north, a massive white bruin that fears no predator. The polar bear is both a totemic symbol of Canada and an important part of the Arctic ecosystem. But as four decades of intensive study has shown, climate change is threatening polar bear populations. CBC Digital Archives presents a dozen clips about how these bears of the great white north have gone from trophy hunter's quarry to nuisance to protected species.

In Siberia, southern Greenland and all around the Arctic, polar bear numbers seem to be dwindling in 1962. Eager to get a grasp on the problem, the Canadian Wildlife Service has begun a field study program in which scientists take specimens for analysis. Fresh from a trip north, observer Dick Harrington tells CBC Radio's Assignment about the diet and habits of the polar bear and why conservation of the species is important.
• The Canadian Wildlife Service (originally the Dominion Wildlife Service) was founded in 1947 to group together public employees charged with the conservation of birds and land mammals. It has been researching polar bears and their ecology since 1961, tracking such information as population numbers, reproduction rates and chemical contamination.
  • The province of Ontario amended its Game and Fisheries Act in 1961 to designate the polar bear as a game animal. This enabled it to control the hunting of the bears, which were estimated to number around 80 in the province.

• Five countries - Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark and the U.S.S.R. - signed an international agreement on the conservation of polar bears in 1973. The agreement compels all member nations to manage their polar bear populations using "sound conservation practices."

• In 2009 there were an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 polar bears in the world, more than half of them in Canada.

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Nov. 5, 1962
Guest(s): Rob Davies
Host: Bill McNeil
Reporter: Dick Harrington
Duration: 6:41

Last updated: February 14, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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