Polar Bears In Churchilll, Man.
The main market for the hides used to be American sport hunters returning home with their trophies. But after the United States made importing the hides illegal, the trade shifted to China. The Asian country bought 12 hides in 2005, but accounted for 42 per cent of all hides exported from Canada between 2010 and 2014. "The market for polar bear hides in China reflects an increasing market for all furs going to China," said Cooper. Chinese buyers have been paying between $5,000 and $6,000 for an average hide. Top-quality examples have fetched as much as $20,000 at auction. Still, Cooper said his study offers no evidence that exporting hides leads to more hunting or threatens the population of the bears. Countries such as the United States have argued that all international trade in polar bear parts should be banned, just as is the trade in elephant ivory. Canada, together with Inuit groups which co-manage the bears, has always argued that the real threat to polar bears is declining sea ice caused by climate change Cooper found that the increase in hide exports was largely due to hunters taking advantage of high prices and selling hides that they'd harvested in previous years. The number of bears hunted in Canada has remained stable at about 600 a year. "It's clear to me that the polar bear does not meet the criteria for (increased protection)." The bears are hunted for a variety of reasons, including for food, to ensure safety and for cultural affirmation. Cooper suggested that banning all trade in the mighty Arctic predator might actually make conservation harder. "It would potentially hurt the conservation of polar bears by taking away the value of polar bears. One of the incentives for a hunter to register his kill is the fact he could potentially sell his hide. "You take away that incentive, you open the door to hunting not being reported and the potential of more bears being hunted."