The melting polar cap in the Arctic region has led to a record number of polar bears being shot in self-defence in Greenland, according to a new report by the international NGO, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In the first nine months of 2014, a record 12 polar bears, including three cubs, have been shot in self-defence because the polar bears and humans are increasingly coming into contact with each other in the bears’ pursuit of food in inhabited areas.
“This is a serious problem that has been overlooked for a long time,” Charlotte M Moshoj, an Arctic biologist with the WWF, said in a press release.
“The many conflicts between polar bears and humans mean that people feel unsafe and fear meeting one of the polar bears that often make their way into towns.”
The issue is particularly prevalent in the settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit in east Greenland where a polar bear was recently shot after it attacked two wildlife trappers who were trying to scare the bear away from the town.
Moshoj called for the Greenlandic authorities to step up and alleviate the issue, pointing to initiatives in Canada that have brought similar issues to the fore.
In the north-Canadian hamlet of Arviat, an organised polar bear patrol, which was established to scare off bears before they get too close to populated areas, has led to a reduction of eight shot bears in 2010 to zero shot in 2012.
“It’s problematic for everyone – the polar bears and the human population – that there isn’t more being done to find a solution. The current situation is not sustainable,” Moshoj said.