Russia lifts ban on polar bear hunting

The governor of Russia's remote Chukotka region, Roman Kopin, signed a decree allowing the area's indigenous people to hunt and kill a maximum of 29 polar bears a year, including 19 females, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

But, Russian wildlife campaigners condemned the move, saying the lifting of the ban will put further pressure on the endangered mammal already threatened by a shrinking habitat and rampant poaching.

Varvara Semonova, a wildlife campaigner, said the decision would "threaten the survival of the polar bear in the Russian Arctic and will have not only ecological but serious social and political consequences for us".

The authorities, however, defended the partial lifting of the ban, arguing that hunting polar bears for their meat and their fur was a traditional part of local Chukchi culture in the Russian Arctic. They said hunters would not be allowed to export bear skins or to sell bear meat commercially.

Russia's decision to allow polar bear hunting for the first time was made possible after the Kremlin signed a treaty with the US governing both countries' polar bear populations on either side of the Bering Strait.

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