04/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Summit To Save Polar Bear From Extinction Starts In Norway

A limit on the hunting of polar bears by sportsmen and native Arctic people will top the agenda at an international summit in Norway tomorrow, seen as vital to the survival of the predator. Although few people outside the Arctic realise it, there is still a major legal hunt for the animals in four out of the five states that host the bears: Canada, Greenland, Alaska in the US, and Russia. In Norway, stalking is banned.

This hunt by Inuit native peoples and in Canada also by sportsmen -- referred to as a "harvest" -- claims as many as 700 polar bears killed every year, 3 per cent of the entire population. Adding the threat from climate change, which is eradicating the bear's natural habitat, the hunts are seen as no longer "sustainable". Studies from the US Geological Survey and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature suggest that the total population of 22,000 polar bears will fall by up to two-thirds over the next 50 years, leading the creature to the precipice of extinction.

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