How are the Polar Bears and Whales doing?

The green taliban like to scare us that Whales and Polar Bears are dying…but are they?

Nope…not anytime soon.

Humpback whales. Some cetaceans are in big trouble. The Yangtze River dolphin is down to a few individuals, at best. Right whales could disappear by the end of the century. Yet we’ve been repeating the “save the whales” mantra for so long that the real conservation status of most whales is widely misunderstood.

Humpbacks were endangered decades ago due to whaling, but international protection has helped them rebound so well that they are now listed as a “species of least concern.” The global pre-whaling population is estimated at about 125,000, and today they probably number about 80,000 individuals. Conservation efforts worked, and humpback whales are doing all right now. 

and the Bears?

Polar bears. An iconic photograph of a polar bear clinging to a chunk of melting Arctic ice has driven home the idea that polar bears are going extinct due to global warming. But the science doesn’t necessarily back this up. There are 19 subpopulations of polar bears and eight of them are in decline. Warmer temperatures and shorter-lived ice mean that fewer polar bears can be supported than in the recent past, but there are more than enough to ensure the survival of the species.

There are currently about 25,000 polar bears worldwide. In the 1970s the species numbered somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000; their recovery since then is owed in part to a 1975 treaty regulating the hunting of polar bears. The International Union for Conservation of Nature predicts that numbers will decrease by 30 percent or more by the year 2053, mostly due to climate change. That is a dramatic loss, but it will still put polar bear numbers ahead of where they were.

DNA studies have shown that polar bears have existed as a species for about 600,000 years. They have lived through many warming and cooling periods in Earth’s history, and they didn’t become extinct during times when ice disappeared. Polar bears also interbred with brown bears during those phases when they had to seek out food on land rather than the seals that they now prefer. Neither hybridization nor global warming are likely to wipe out the polar bear anytime soon.


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