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WWF: experts will clarify the situation with polar bears on Novaya Zemlya archipelago

11 february 2019
On Tuesday, a group of scientists and representatives of Rosprirodnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage), should fly to Novaya Zemlya archipelago. Experts will assess the situation and develop a plan to prevent human - polar bears conflicts.

Recall, on Saturday, the authorities of the urban district Novaya Zemlya imposed an emergency regime due to the massive invasion of polar bears. According to the representatives of the administration, 52 bears were recorded in the area of ​​the Belushya Guba village, and from six to ten animals are constantly present in the village.

Such a massive gathering of polar bears is a unique case for Novaya Zemlya. But it only confirms the trend: number of human and predator encounters in the Arctic is increasing. The main reason is the decline of the sea ice area due to the changing climate. In the absence of ice cover, animals are forced to go ashore in search of food. And settlements with spontaneous waste deposits are the most attractive places: bears will go for the smell of food waste, regardless of the availability of other food. 

Photos and video frames: https://vk.com/novajazemlja

Now, experts will go to the Arctic and discover the situation. With so many bears, the usual scaring methods (rubber bullets, signal rockets, motor vehicles) are likely to be ineffective.

First of all, it is necessary to eliminate the landfill with food waste, because it is the main attraction for animals. Probably it will be effective to make a new feeding spot at a considerable distance from the village, which will allow to switch the attention of bears.

Mass shooting of predators is not possible. The polar bear is red-listed in Russia and its shooting is possible only with the permission of Rosprirodnadzor in extreme cases. The special commission rejected the application of the settlement administration for shooting of five species.

“In the future, after the main threat is eliminated, a polar bear patrol should be established in the village, - says Mikhail Stishov, Arctic biodiversity projects coordinator, WWF Russia. - Operational groups trained and equipped with WWF support work effectively in Chukotka and in the Nenets Autonomous District. The main task is to promptly notify about the approach of an animal to the settlement and to drive it away”.

In the future, the village must be equipped with fences and barriers, video monitoring and alarm warning systems.

All these measures are not new and are being successfully applied in the Arctic settlements around the world. WWF Russia has repeatedly spoken about how to prevent conflicts between humans and polar bears and minimize risks. Special rules based on the world experience were compiled and published together with leading experts.

The materials were sent to all interested departments, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Defense. However, for the time being these are only recommendations that, if read, are not implemented.

Three years ago, WWF together with the Russian Arctic National Park and the Institute of Ecology and Evolution offered assistance in developing an action plan for conflict prevention. It is impossible to give recommendations remotely, specialists need to visit the site. Unfortunately, in recent years, none of the scientific experts could obtain permission from the Ministry of Defense to visit Novaya Zemlya.

A more detailed assessment of the situation should be given by experts who will now go to the archipelago and give an informed conclusion.

Photos and video frames: https://vk.com/novajazemlja
For additional information please contact
Press officer of the Barents projectBarents sea ecoregional programme
Leading projects coordinator