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Scientists, Inuit differ on fate of polar bear

Canada’s polar bears are not teetering on the brink of extinction anddon’t need the alarmist rhetoric coming from some of the world’sbiologists, an Inuit expert said Friday at a one-day summit to discussthe fate of the arctic mammals.

Canada’s polar bears are not teetering on the brink of extinction and don’t need the alarmist rhetoric coming from some of the world’s biologists, an Inuit expert said Friday at a one-day summit to discuss the fate of the arctic mammals.

While scientists warned vanishing sea ice and over-hunting means two-thirds of the iconic predators could be gone within 50 years, the people who have shared “a personal relationship” with polar bears for thousands of years say the threat is exaggerated.

“The current population is stable. It is not constructive to exaggerate the situation,” said Gabriel Nirlungayuk, director of wildlife at Nunavut Tunngavik in Rankin Inlet.

“The Inuit share our land with the polar bear. We use the polar bear as a resource. It is important for our diet and our culture. We respect the polar bears. It is in our legend and we want to continue preserving this species.”

Some 50 years ago, Nirlungayuk said there were only about 8,000 polar bears in Canada. Now, he said there are just more than 15,000.

But some scientists say polar bears won’t be around for long unless bold action is taken to curb climate change, over-hunting and industrial activity in the North.

 
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