New Russian Arctic Park to protect key polar bear habitat



Posted on 16 June 2009
The ‘Russian Arctic’ park is located on the northern part of Novaya Zemlya, a long island that arcs out into the Arctic Ocean between the Barents and Kara Seas. It also includes some adjacent marine areas.

WWF has long been lobbying for the park, which is also a key area for walrus, wild reindeer and bird population. The park creation excludes all industrial activities.

“This is exactly the sort of thing we need to see from Arctic governments,” says Neil Hamilton Director of WWF International’s Arctic Programme.

“The only way these Arctic populations are going to survive the ecological havoc caused by global warming is by providing them with enough breathing room.”

“If industrial activity is kept far enough from key habitat, the animals have a chance.”

“We also need urgent global action on climate change to ensure that the parks stay cold enough for animals such as polar bears and wild reindeer.”

While WWF is pleased with the park creation, it notes that the protected area is smaller than the 5 million hectares initially planned.

“Despite the fact that the Russian Arctic Park is our big achievement, we’re sorry that not all planned territories were included in the park area,” says Oleg Sutkaitis, Head of the Barents Sea Ecoregional Office for WWF Russia.

“Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island were crossed out from the project, but we will now work on widening the park’s borders.”

When announcing the park, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he hoped it would be a major attraction for tourism, and announced that he personally plans to vacation there.
POLAR BEARS IN PERIL: The U.S. Geological Survey forecasts that two-thirds of the world's polar bears will disappear by 2050, based on moderate projections for the shrinking of summer sea ice caused by global warming.
© WWF-US Enlarge
Up close and personal: A polar bear, photographed by Geoff York of the WWF Arctic Programme, from the PBI Tundra Buggy.
© WWF / Geoff York Enlarge

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