Polar bears are among the world's most iconic animals, a noble species whose very existence hangs in precarious balance due to melting arctic ice associated with global warming -- but while conservationists work to preserve their kind, others are paying a hefty price for the chance to kill them.
According to the Daily Mail, one Chinese company called the 'I Love Hunting Club' is drawing criticism for selling travel packages to adventure-seeking tourists offering the chance to kill polar bears in Canada. Reports indicate that nearly a hundred people, mostly Chinese businessmen, have shelled out $80,000 for the trip which includes: airfare, accommodations, foreign hunting permits, tracking guides to help find a bear, a bow and arrow or rifle to kill it with, taxidermy services to mount the animal or to make it into a rug, and finally a souvenir DVD documenting the entire sickening affair.
From one of the I Love Hunting Club's brochures:
"The polar bear is the most extreme of natural enemies in North America. Their weight can reach one ton, and they can grow to more than three meters in length. The huge male bear specimens are the most majestic, most beautiful of hunting prizes!"
The club's owner, American hunting specialist Scott Lupien, says there's a high demand for polar bear skins among Chinese elites, and his Beijing-based company's travel package to hunt the animals is only slightly more expensive than importing the product, making his offer all the more lucrative. While clearly a profitable venture for Lupien, the sportsman attempts to skirt criticism by claiming that the hunts are actually good for polar bears.
"If a male runs into a female with cubs, it attacks the cubs. Hunting males actually helps the young population survive," Lupien tells the Daily Mail. "The animal rights guys know this but they don’t want to admit it. And if you believe the ice caps are melting as some claim, these bears are going to die anyway, so you may as well hunt them."
What may be more surprising than the fact that there are people willing to spend significant amounts of money to hunt polar bears is the fact that, in Canada, it is somehow still legal. Despite being classified as a threatened species on the U.S. Endangered Species list, a drop in their numbers due to melting arctic ice, and a grim outlook in light of the ongoing effects of global warming, Canada remains the only up to 500 polar bears to be killed each year by trophy hunters from abroad.
One can only wonder how aware the public was of this policy which allows for the imperiled species to be hunted for $80,000 -- particularly considering a recent survey which revealed that Canadians were willing to pay $420,000 per polar bear to save them.
For a glimpse of the group in action, here's a clip posted by the I Love Hunting Club of a recent black bear hunt in Canada: