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Russian bear shuns Norwegian research

The Norwegian Polar Institute launches polar bear counting, but only on the Norwegian side of the Arctic and without Russian colleagues.

There will be no joint counting of polar bears this year as Russian authorities reject Norwegian reseachers’ entry to the Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land.

“We don’t have permission,” Jon Aars, a polar bear researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, told newspaper Svalbardposten.

As previously reported, Norwegian and Russian researchers were to start a unique joint counting of polar bears in late July, but that endeavor had to be cancelled as the Norwegians were not given the necessary permission to enter the Russian Arctic.

“I am disappointed”, researcher Aars says. And so are also our Russian colleagues, he adds to the newspaper.

The joint expedition was based on a Norwegian-Russian memorandum of understanding and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had supported the project with 10 million kroner. The counting was to take place in both the Svalbard and Franz Josef Land, the key areas of habitation for polar bears in the Barents Sea region.

The last major census of polar bears was conducted in 2004. Then, the researchers concluded that there were between 1850-3400 animals in the area.

The Norwegian Polar Institute now hopes that the Russians will count bears on their side of the Arctic, despite the collapse of the joint mission.

The Norwegian researchers will complete the bear count. But only on the Norwegian side. On 4th August, the Norwegian Polar Institute research vessel “RV Lance” sailed towards the eastern and northern parts of the Svalbard archipelago to start the count.

The observations of animals will be used to calculate densities of animals within a defined area. Helicopters are used to cover the land areas in Svalbard and in some areas do total counts will be conducted, the Polar Institute informs on its website.