I would like to use this final entry in my blog to outline some of my conclusions about what needs to be done to save the polar bears.
1) Global Warming
The plight of polar bears is urgent. Global warming has a disproportionate effect upon the Arctic- the amount of warming here is much greater than elsewhere partly due to the diversion of the jet stream of warm air from the south to higher latitudes. The most immediately threatened population is that in Alaska, but Canada holds the key as it has the majority (60%) of the world's polar bears.
Action needs to be taken now. Chuck explained that he first saw the problem twenty years ago, and yet adequate co-ordinated action between governments has not been achieved yet. We all need to tie personal responsibility in areas such as energy conservation, but we are morally obliged to lobby our Governments and use our votes to achieve change. In the UK at least environmental issues have slipped down the political agenda and yet climate change is by far the most important issue facing our planet and there has been a real failure of political leadership.
The experience also raised two local issues for Manitoba I would like to highlight:
1) The Tundra Buggy trade
My entry from November 11th raised some real concerns about the ethics of one of the two operating companies. These include food conditioning of bears, damage to the tundra through deviating from the trails and deliberately influencing their natural behaviour in order to provide a 'better experience' for the visitors. The two companies are licensed by the government and far more stringent conditions and enforcement action must be taken. There is talk of introducing GPS tracking to monitor their positions, and this cannot be delayed further. I would also suggest more rigorous training of drivers and dividing the licences between greater numbers of operators to increase competition, and reduce the requirement to undertake an expensive organised package in order to view bears.
2) Brian Ladoon's dog farm
To summarise, this outfit is feeding bears with dog food in order to create a tourist attraction and profit from the suffering of the bears and dogs. The community appears to be turning a blind eye to this malpractice in order to maintain the tourist trade. Ladoon has now started openly advertising bear viewing amongst the dogs (we saw a sign this year displaying not inconsiderable prices). It is unfortunate that there are few alternatives to the two Tunda Buggy companies for bear viewing in Churchill (our GBF trip is one), but do not under any circumstances patronise Ladoon for the sake not only of the bears but also the dogs.
Visitors need to be informed so they can use their own judgment as to who to patronise, and pressure needs to be brought upon the local agencies from a federal level. Unfortunately small town politics complicate achiving a local solution, it pressure has to be brought to bear from outside. Please inform yourself about this problem and I would encourage you to do your own research and gather any information you can including photographs which should be shared as widely as possible. Also please feel free to contact me via a comment on this blog or click here to email me.
For a more exhaustive analysis into this problem, I would direct you to http://mytraveltales.com/2010/11/15/who%e2%80%99s-protecting-the-polar-bears/ written by a fellow participant on this trip. The situation is documented in detail on this page and actions if you plan you visit Churchill are laid out clearly, including a list of businesses which are ethical. I can corroborate the findings in this blog, having witnessed with my own eyes events this year from the border of Ladoon's property.
Incidentally, PETA raises concerns from the dog's perspective here and encourage lobbying: https://secure.peta.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2703
Do you want to help these gorgeous creatures?