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WWF Polar Bear Patrols celebrate 15 years of successful work
08 december 2021
Supported by WWF-Russia initiative from Arctic coastal villages in 15 years has grown into a serious conservation movement that allows people and polar bears to safely coexist in the most remote regions of our country.
“In just 15 years, the Polar Bear Patrol project has become a serious and very important area of WWF work. It unites many like-minded people throughout the Arctic, people who are not indifferent but are sincerely committed to nature,” says Dmitry Gorshkov, WWF-Russia Chief executive. - And we see that the role of their work is only growing: due to climate change, due to the growth of anthropogenic pressure in the Arctic, more and more human - polar bear encounters occur. The main success of the project is that thanks to the work of the patrolmen, over 15 years it was possible to prevent hundreds of conflicts that could end badly for both people and the Arctic predator. "
Now, with the support of WWF-Russia, the Polar Bear Patrol teams work in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, in Yakutia and Chukotka. On the coast of the Chukchi Sea it all started in 2006, with a small local project. Then WWF supported the locals` initiative of the village of Vankarem, and a year later, of the village of Ryrkaipiy and helped them in solving the problem of the "autumn invasion" of polar bears. For the first time, people encountered massive concentrations of predators near settlements - due to the delay in the appearance of the ice cover caused by climate change, the polar bears were forced to spend more time on the shore and inevitably went out to people.
Since then, the importance of the work of patrols has only grown every year: the sea remains open from ice for longer and longer, encounters with a predator are more and more frequent. So, in December 2019, the village of Ryrkaipiy was surrounded by 50 bears at once. And this year turned out to be "hot" for the village of Amderma in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug - the patrolmen conducted has driven away more than 15 polar bears, setting a kind of anti-record.
“All our patrolmen are special people, loving nature, worried about the business and the fate of their native villages. They do not receive a salary, they work as volunteers. At the same time, at any time, in any weather, it does not matter - during the day or late at night, they are ready to promptly respond to the signal and leave to drive the polar bear away. Sometimes they receive five calls from their fellow villagers during one night,” says Varvara Semyonova, coordinator of the WWF-Russia Polar Bear Patrol project. - We try to support the patrolmen as much as possible, provide them with equipmentб fuel, repellers and outfit. And during the "bear" season, we are in touch practically around the clock - we advise and provide coordination."
Many volunteers have been working for more than 10 years and can already rightfully consider themselves as public inspectors for nature conservation. They not only provide safety in the villages, but also teach fellow villagers, conduct classes in schools, organize clean-ups and conduct monitoring - collecting scientific information about polar bears.
For 15 years, the Polar Bear Patrol project has become recognizable and respected: scientists, regional authorities, relevant ministries and departments, and those who, working in the Arctic, are forced to encounter a polar bear - tour operators, mining companies, employees of meteorological stations - turn to its experience and advise.