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Officials Reject Proposal to Ban Trade in Polar Bear Parts

Mar 07, 2013 01:11 PM EST
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Storm Brian batters UK with 80mph winds
The polar bear cub, named Vicks, walks under mother Olinka's legs at the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, on Thursday, Mar. 17. (Jerry Lampen / Reuters)

Officials at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) failed to pass a proposal to ban the international trade in polar bear parts.

The proposal presented by the United States delegation was considered one of the main points on the agenda, and it derailed after it failed to gather support from Canada, Greenland, and Norway – all of which have polar bear populations.

“We are obviously disappointed that the Cites membership failed to give greater protection to polar bears by limiting permissible trade in polar bear pelts and other body parts,” David J. Hayes, a deputy secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, said in an e-mailed statement.

The convention which has been taken place in Bangkok also denied a compromise proposal by the European Union that included export quotes and tagging to help control illegal trade.
The Thursday decision was obviously not popular among environmental groups.

"The world has once again had a chance to take action to safeguard polar bears and failed," said Jeffrey Flocken of 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."

"CITES has left polar bears out in the cold once again," said Humane Society International wildlife director Teresa M. Telecky. "We urge officials from those countries that want to see an end to the international commercial trade in the polar bear to work to overturn this vote by gathering additional support and bringing the proposal back to the plenary meeting next week."

On the table were also were proposals to afford protection to three species of sharks, manta rays, fresh water sawfish and various types of timber.

According to Dan Ashe, head of the American delegation at the meeting, polar bear populations have dwindled in the recent years as melting sea ice has shrunk their habitats, and the soaring prices for polar bear hides which have led to increased hunting.

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