Status With 20-25,000 polar bears living in the wild, the species is not currently endangered, but its future is far from certain. In 1973, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and the former U.S.S.R. signed the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat. This agreement restricts the hunting of polar bears and directs each nation to protect their habitats, but it does not protect the bears against the biggest man-made threat to their survival: climate change. If current warming trends continue unabated, scientists believe that polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century. WWF provides funding to field research by the world's foremost experts on polar bears to find out how climate change will affect the long-term status of polar bears. To learn more about the topic, read the WWF reportVanishing Kingdom: The Melting Realm of the Polar Bear. WWF's report,Polar Bears at Risk, provides a more detailed analysis.
Why is this species important? Of all of the wildlife species in the Arctic, the polar bear is perhaps the most fitting icon for this ecoregion. Its amazing adaptations to life in the harsh Arctic environment and dependence on sea ice make them so impressive, and yet so vulnerable. Large carnivores are sensitive indicators of ecosystem health. Polar bears are studied to gain an understanding of what is happening throughout the Arctic as a polar bear at risk is often a sign of something wrong somewhere in the arctic marine ecosystem.
Visit theWWF Polar Bear Trackerto track the movements of polar bears and learn more about how warming and changes in sea ice affect the lives of polar bears over time.
As part of our work with the Norwegian Polar Institute, the bears have radio collars that track their positions via a satellite.
WWF works to:
Fund field research by the world's foremost experts on polar bears to find out how climate change will affect the long-term condition of polar bears
Work with governments, industry, and individuals to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change
Promote sustainable consumptive and non-consumptive use of polar bears that directly affect the species, such as hunting, poaching, industrial take, illegal trade, and unsustainable tourism
Protect critical habitat including important movement corridors, and denning habitat
Prevent or remove direct threats from industrial activity such as oil and gas development, and arctic shipping.
The actions we take include providing support for and communication of key science that will help us build resilience; engaging with indigenous/local communities to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and work towards sustainable development opportunities; and drafting and spearheading management solutions that address the major threats of climate change and industrialization of the Arctic.