Safety first for people and polar bears in the Arctic

Adapting to a changing Arctic is a challenge for people and wildlife, and too often issues like melting Arctic sea ice and lack of secure waste disposal facilities are bringing communities and animals into conflict.  It’s something that puts both at risk – and something that many governments and NGOs are working to address.
If you follow WWF’s blog regularly, you may recall some exciting news we shared earlier this year: that the number of polar bear defense kills were reduced to zero in the Hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut.  This was the successful result of a WWF, Government of Nunavut-and community supported polar bear-human conflict mitigation project.

Polar bear repelled by electric fence in Arviat (C)Hamlet of Arviat
Polar bear repelled by electric fence in Arviat (C)Hamlet of Arviat

Now – in partnership with Parks Canada, the Nunavut Department of Environment, and BearWISE – WWF will roll out the new standard course for polar bear guard training in November 2013.  This course combines the expertise of all collaborators to establish standards of practice and training for polar bear guards in Nunavut.  The training will help communities across Nunavut deal with bear encounters – protecting people, property and polar bears.
While most conservation work takes decades to produce results, this program created change in just two years.  It showed how it is possible for a community and polar bears to coexist safely.  Learning from the experiences in Arviat and sharing the knowledge to keep people and bears safe is the next step.  It’s also a great example of the kind of collaborative, on-the-ground conservation work that WWF engages in to help make a difference in the lives of Arctic peoples and wildlife.  With the proper resources and training in hand, we trust that the success we’ve seen in Arviat can be replicated in other communities.
WWF’s contributions to the guard training project is supported by funding from Coca-Cola’s Arctic Home campaign, which will soon be launching for its third year. Stay tuned for a chance to double your support for a healthy and safe Arctic future!