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Russia's Chukotka backs polar bear hunting

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) March 17, 2011
Russia on Thursday approved quotas allowing indigenous tribes in the remote Chukotka region to hunt endangered polar bears for the first time since the 1950s.

The governor of the Chukotka region in northeastern Russia signed a decree approving a polar bear quota of 29 animals per year, including 19 females.

The limit was established in June by a US-Russian commission, which allows indigenous people in Chukotka and Alaska to kill 58 polar bears per year from their shared polar bear population.

The animals are a source of food and their skins are used for clothing, blankets and other products in the hostile environment.

Alaska's native tribes were allowed to harvest bears in the past, but in Russia catching the endangered mammal had been forbidden since 1957 despite the quota, the regional government said in a press release.

Biodiversity expert Vladimir Krever of the World Wildlife Fund said it is too early for Russia to formally allow the killing of polar bears, which are already threatened by poachers and global warming.

"There are no mechanisms to control the catch in Chukotka," he told AFP. "The quota includes animals that were killed illegally, and experts estimate that poachers kill at least 30 every year, which is already more than allowed."

The bilateral agreement with the United States still forbids killing "females with cubs, cubs younger than one, and bears in dens, including bears that are preparing for hibernation."

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