Introduction

Polar bears and humans have a long history in most parts of the Arctic. Ever since the Inuits encountered the polar bears hundreds of years ago, there has been more and more interaction with this large predator. Today, hunting, scientific activity and tourism are directly interfering with the life of the polar bears. Climate change and pollution, also linked to human activity, is also affecting the Arctic King.

Some important questions are, how many polar bears are killed annually? Is this hunting sustainable? Is the population of polar bears decreasing or increasing? Is the current polar bear management successful? Are there any red flags regarding the trade of polar bear skins? Are there any alternatives to hunting for the Natives? These are some of the questions very few authors, researchers or organizations are asking. In this project we want to publish information about these topics, and address important conservation actions.

The first outcome of this project will be a high quality book, in format 29×26 cm, that will combine scientific facts, photo stories and interviews. Since there is scarce literature containing detailed information about these topics available today, this book will be important to drive involvement of people and organisations in Arctic conservation. Ole J. Liodden is the founder of this project and will be the main author and photographer, but we also want to engage people like you to make this project successful.

The problem

Most of the Polar bear conservation projects today are only focusing on climate change and global warming. It is very important to protect the Arctic environment to secure the ecosystem with drifting ice for Arctic animals, but it is also important to protect the animals themselves. Polar bears have become the main symbol for global warming, and big conservation campaigns are published with images of polar bears. Human removals (killing) of polar bears are rarely mentioned in these campaigns at all.

A big problem when working with polar bear conservation today is the fact that information about polar bear hunting is hidden, very limited, only available for shorter periods or only referred to as “sustainable” without any concerns. There are no books, research papers or internet publications available today with detailed, long-term hunting statistics at village or polar bear sub-population level. This makes it difficult to talk about polar bear hunting and management, since important information about this activity is not available.

Projects about the interaction between polar bears and humans might be challenging, since many people have strong feelings about polar bears, hunting, native people rights and climate change issues. It is politically incorrect to question the Inuit, scientific activity, or the polar bear management – especially in areas with hunting.

 

Living on thin ice


The ocean temperature is rising, the Arctic ice coverage is shrinking and the drifting ice is getting thinner. In this project we want to look into how serious is this change? How does it affect the polar bears and other Arctic animals? How can the polar bears adapt to this new future?

Many books and scientific papers have been published about climate change, but there is not much information available on how this affects the polar bears regarding their growth rates (population changes), their choices on thin ice and the kind of ice that is most limiting for their existence.

Living on thin ice

The ocean temperature is rising, the Arctic ice coverage is shrinking and the drifting ice is getting thinner. In this project we want to look into how serious is this change? How does it affect the polar bears and other animals? How can the polar bears adapt to this new future?

Many books and scientific papers have been published about climate change, but there is not much information available on how this affects the polar bears regarding their growth rates (population changes), their choices on thin ice and the kind of ice that is most limiting for their existence.

The history of hunting

Polar bears have been hunted for hundreds of years by the Inuit. Since 1850 European hunters and trappers have also killed polar bear intensively, and from the 1950s onwards, trophy hunters have killed thousands of polar bears. After the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears in 1973, there have been some improvements, at least in Svalbard, but 800-1000 polar bears are still shot every year – legally or illegally. For most of you this hunting activity is at a shockingly high level, and in this project we want to show the historical polar bear hunting levels, where this hunting occurs and who are the most active hunters.  


Hunting statistics for the last 50 years are “official” but extremely difficult to find, or sometimes even hidden. A fraction of hunting statistics can be found in scientific publications, but no complete timelines can be found with detailed information. One of the main purposes of this project is to publish complete time series (1962-2017) of polar bear hunting activity in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Svalbard. Based on this information and growth rates, it will be possible to estimate population changes over time.

Population trends

The “official” number for the total polar bear population is 20.000-25.000, but this number is mostly based on old estimates. Very few researchers or authors have tried to provide updated estimates for the polar bear population today. Two important questions are: why is it so important to know the numbers of polar bears, and how can governments and organizations talk about “sustainable hunting” when the estimates of polar bear populations are so uncertain?

In this project we want to break down the total number of polar bears into countries and sub-populations, and based on historical hunting statistics and estimated growth rates, calculate population trends. We also want to cover as long time series as possible, back to the 1960s, to see how successful the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears from 1973 has been.

License to kill

Up to 100 polar bears are killed annually by trophy hunters in Arctic Canada. With a legal license hunters with enough money can kill a polar bear, with the help from local Inuit guides. This hunting activity has some ethical issues, and has led to a growing movement for an international ban on this activity. In this project we want to look at this trophy hunting business regarding: how many polar bears are killed by trophy hunters in total? Where is this trophy hunting business activity located? How can this trophy hunting be legal within the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears from 1973? Is the trophy hunting activity only in areas with stable polar bear populations? How much are the locals benefiting from this polar bear trophy hunting?

One thing is how to reduce or ban the polar bear trophy hunting, but an even more important question is if there are other options to the traditional trophy hunting. Modern trophy hunters, as we see them in Svalbard, Churchill and Kaktovik, are using cameras instead of guns, and share image prints or digital images of their trophies, instead of polar bear heads or skins in their show rooms. The business of modern trophy hunting will also gain more people in the local communities, not only for the guides and the operator. They can sell the same polar bear more than once, and to more people, year after year. If the local Inuit want to increase their income based on low scale ecotourism, this might be an opportunity in at least some areas, even with expensive logistics.

Mr problem bear

Encounters between humans and polar bears have occurred in the Arctic as long as people have hunted, explored and settled in these remote parts of the world. Most of these encounters happened without any drama, but in some rare situations the bears, and even humans, have been injured or killed.

Human activity in the Arctic is increasing rapidly. More native and non-native people are inhabiting the Arctic communities, industrial activities and shipping is increasing, researchers handle more polar bears, and tourists wants to explore the remote areas of the Arctic. All these activities results in more meetings between humans and polar bears.

In this project we want to describe and document the effect of “problem bears” and humans and try to answer questions like: Is it more serious polar bear encounters in Svalbard today because of more people and ban of hunting? Are native people in the Arctic scared by the polar bears? Why is the number of “problem bear” kills in Nunavut increasing? How can we reduce the numbers of “problem bears”? What is the best way polar bear deterrent?

In the name of science

The polar bear is a symbol of the Arctic. Since the 1980s, thousands of polar bears have been followed by helicopters, darted and handled by researchers to obtain data on polar bear movements, climate change and oceanic pollution. Some questions about this scientific activity are: How stressful is it for the polar bears? Is it possible to improve the tracking devices (satellite collars) to reduce the burden on the bears? What have we learned from these scientific studies? Are there any non-invasive options for future polar bear research?


More information

The Arctic Rhino

The prices of polar bear pelts are increasing, especially in China and Russia. In this project we want to describe the market for polar bear parts (skins): Who are buying the polar bear skins? Who are earning the money on the skin business? Where are skins orginate from? How is the system and monitoring of the trade? What is the future for polar bears if the skin prices continue to rise? Is there a price limit where the “bad guys” are entering the business? How will the illegal hunting in Russia and other places in the Arctic respond to this increased demand?

This project will also look for similarities between the hunting / poaching of polar bears and African Rhinos (or other endangered species). Can we learn something from the problems with African Rhinos or will we soon see the same story with an “Arctic Rhino”?

Support the project

The Polar Bears & Humans project will not succeed without support from people like you. By supporting this project you will be directly involved in a project providing important information about polar bear hunting, populations and management, not only a coffee-table book with great photography.

This project is not a typical Kickstarter project where we might run the project if enough people are supporting us. We started to work on the project back in September 2014, and the writing of the book since August 2016. This project is already up and running and your support will not be wasted in administration or fees.

It will take 2-3 years to work seriously on the topics addressed above, and at the moment we have 5 stages in this project:

1. Work on the hunting statistics and write the history of hunting. Budget: USD $5000. This stage is 100% funded.


2. Work on the population estimates for all 19 sub-populations of polar bears, and include the hunting statistics and link it with estimates for growth rates. Parts of the “Living on thin ice” will also be included. Budget: USD $5000. This stage is 100% funded.


3. Work on the “License to kill”, “Problem bears”, “In the name of science” and the “Arctic rhino” topics. This stage also requires some traveling to make the photo stories and pictures for the book (and hopefully exhibitions). Budget: USD $20,000. This stage is 100% funded.


4. Write the rest of the text, copy editing, prepare the layout and print the book “Polar Bears & Humans”. Budget: USD $25,000. This stage is 100% funded, and will be finished 31.12.2018.

UPDATE 30.11 2017. Today we have reached the first goal of raising USD $55,000 for writing and printing the book as described above. Based on the great response from our partners and donors, we have decided to increase the effort and budget in this project. Two important and poorly described issues regarding the conservation of polar bears have been discovered during the work last 2 years, and we believe it is essential to include it in the project. All donations above USD $55.000 will be used for the work listed below.

5. Describe in detail the international polar bear skin trade, the drivers in the market, illegal and “grey market” trade, laws and regulations, and how to control, reduce or even stop the trade in polar bear products. This work will also describe the value chain and include travels to the supply (Canada) and demand (China, Norway etc) side of the market. Budget: USD $20,000. This stage is 16% funded.


6. Describe the importance of low-scale ecotourism (bear watching) in native settlements as a sustainable, cultural-friendly and higher economic valued activity than the traditional hunting or trophy hunting business. How can ALIVE animals be valued and respected more than dead animals (meat, skin and trophies)? Budget: USD $20,000. This stage is 0% funded.


NOTE: After these stages we plan to address further work through an NGO organization with activities like: Polar bear conservation projects, lobbying decision makers, conferences and exhibitions. We also believe the published information in the Polar Bears & Humans book will be important for other people and organizations working for better protection of Arctic animals and their ecosystem.


$58,175 of $95,000 raised
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Donation Total: $100

Rewards for everyone supporting this project:

USD $10 or more

You will receive a monthly newsletter with status updates about the project, and will get a chance to buy the book later.


USD $100 or more

You will receive the regular version of the Polar Bears & Humans book to your address when it’s published.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2019


USD $250 or more

You will receive the Limited Edition Polar Bears & Humans book (signed and numbered 1-100) to your address when it’s published.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2019


USD $500 or more

You will be listed under “Private sponsors” in the book, and receive the Limited Edition Polar Bears & Humans book (signed and numbered 1-100) to your address when it’s published.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2019


USD $1000 or more

Choose 1x Limited Edition print, be listed under “Private sponsors” in the book, and receive the Limited Edition Polar Bears & Humans book (signed and numbered 1-100) to your address when it’s published.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2019 (book), 1 month (print)


USD $2500 or more

Choose 3x Limited Edition print, be listed under “Private sponsors” in the book, and receive the Limited Edition Polar Bears & Humans book (signed and numbered 1-100) to your address when it’s published.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2019 (book), 1 month (prints)


USD $5000 or more

You (or your company) will be a “Main partner” in the project. Contact us

Send an email to ojl@oleliodden.com if you have any questions.

Main Partners


Wild Photo Wonders
NABU
NCCT
NoZoMoJo
WildPhoto