Canada wants more study on polar bear protection

Thu Aug 28, 2008 5:05pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

INUVIK, Northwest Territories (Reuters) - Canada, criticized by environmentalists for not adequately protecting polar bears from the effects of climate change, said on Thursday it will take more time study its next step.

A scientific panel on Thursday released detailed findings of an April review that classified the bear population as a "special concern," but not endangered or threatened with extinction.

The government has created a national round table to consult with a variety of groups, including residents of the Arctic, on how best to protect the bears, Environment Minister John Baird said.

"Protecting the polar bears is something we are committed to, but we going to base it on science and with input and collaboration with Inuit and northern people," Baird told reporters in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

Canada is home to about two-thirds of the world's 25,000 polar bears.

The animal is the symbol of the country's vast northern region, with the metal of Northwest Territories' license plates even stamped in its silhouette.

The United States said in May it was listing polar bears as a threatened species. Baird said Canada was cooperating with U.S. officials on studying how best to protect the animals.

Some green groups say Canada falls short by not matching the U.S. declaration, which was prompted by fears that global warming was destroying the ice needed by the bears to survive.   Continued...

<p>A polar bear sow and two cubs are seen on the Beaufort Sea coast within the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. REUTERS/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Handout</p>