No Doom for Polar Bears and Penguins

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No doom for polar bears and penguins according to articles in The Globe and Mail 4 April, BBC News and ScienceDaily 13 April 2012, and PLoS ONE 7(4): e33751. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033751. A recent survey of polar bear numbers on the western shores of Hudson Bay Canada has defied predictions of declining polar bear populations by climate change doomsayers. The bears in this region were considered the most threatened populations of polar bears. In 2004, Environment Canada researchers concluded that the numbers in the region had dropped by 22 per cent since 1984, to 935 and predicted the population would decrease to about 610 bears.

The new survey conducted by the Government of Nunavut indicates the bear population is actually increasing, and now stands at 1,013. According to Drikus Gissing, Nunavut’s director of wildlife management, the survey shows that “the bear population is not in crisis as people believed”. He added: “There is no doom and gloom”. These results fit with reports from the native Inuit people who claim polar bears are increasing in number across the Arctic regions. Drikus Gissing estimates there are about 25,000 polar bears across Canada’s Arctic and commented: “That’s likely the highest [population level] there has ever been”.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the world a team of researchers led byPeter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey have used Very High Resolution Satellite imagery of the entire Antarctic coastline to find colonies of Emperor penguins and estimate the size of each colony. They found 46 colonies, including four previously unknown ones. They estimated the number of adult birds to be 595,000, which, is almost double the previous estimates of 270,000 to 350,000 birds. One reason for carrying out this study was to calculate a baseline population so researchers can see if climate change is affecting the penguin’s survival.

Peter Fretwell commented: “The emperor penguin has evolved into a very narrow ecological niche; it's an animal that breeds in the coldest environment in the world. It currently has an advantage in that environment because there are no predators and no competition for its food. If Antarctica warms so that predators and competitors can move in, then their ecological niche no longer exists; and that spells bad news for the emperor penguin”.

BBC, ScienceDaily, Government of Nunavut Report (PDF)

Editorial Comment: These population studies are a reminder we should concentrate on actual observation of what is there, rather than speculations based on computer modelling. Polar bears live in regions where people also inhabit, therefore, scientists should be taking note of the observations by the native peoples who live there. Since no-one lives in most of the regions populated by emperor penguins the satellite based study is a clever way of answering the question about penguin population. However, climate doomsayers who predicted the demise of the penguins because the ice sheet ‘is disappearing’ should also look at satellite studies of the Antarctic sea ice extent. Since satellite images have been available, the ice has undergone some changes but the overall trend is for a slow, but sure, increase for over 30 years. (See National Snow and Ice Database Sea Ice Index)

These studies of animal population also expose the hypocrisy of environmentalists who insist all life evolved by natural selection and the struggle for life. Who should care then if predators move in and there is more competition for food because the ice is melting. That is what evolution is really about – struggle, survival, and death. Darwin himself summed it up at the end of his famous book: “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals directly follows”. (Darwin, 1859, Origin, 1st Edition, p491) (Ref. ice-caps, mammals, birds)

Evidence News 16 May 2012

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