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Russia will not lift polar bear hunting ban: government

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) April 14, 2011
Russia will not allow any polar bear hunting in its far north, despite agreeing a quota of 29 bears with the United States, the government said in a statement posted Thursday on its website.

"A decision has been taken on the government level that Russia will not be using its quota," said the statement on the personal website of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has taken the polar bear under his personal protection.

Last month, the Chukotka governor approved a quota previously agreed by a Russian-US commission to allow native inhabitants of Russia's far northern Chukotka region and US state of Alaska to kill 29 endangered polar bears each, including 19 females.

But the statement said that the government had not given the natural resources ministry the powers to hand out hunting permits for polar bears, effectively prolonging the ban on killing them.

Putin's website has sections devoted to four endangered mammals he has taken under "personal control", including the polar bear. Last year he went on an expedition to tag the bears on the far northern island of Alexandra Land.

Hunting polar bears has been forbidden in Russia since 1957, but their dwindling population still falls victim to poaching, which experts say is hard to control and kills at least 30 animals yearly.

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