April 1, 2000
by Anthony Marr
Tel: 604-222-1169, Fax: 604-682-4107
What happens when you cross a weak environment ministry with a
hunting lobby? Censorship, punishment.
I refer first to the 1998 confiscation by the BC Environment Ministry
a dissenting research paper by ministry biologist A. Dionys DeLeeuw on
Grizzly bear conservation strategy and hunting policy, 80 copies of
previously distributed to key ministry personnel, all confiscated.
Second, I of course refer to a similar confiscation of his second
paper on March
15 this year. This plus the suspension-without-pay and the gag order,
me wonder if I'm in Canada or Tienanmen Square or maybe the Middle Ages.
It has struck me that suppression is a desperate measure stemming from
So, what is the BC Environment Ministry afraid of?
First, the wrath of the hunting and guide-outfitting community if the
hunt is banned.
Second, the accountant - for loss of hunting-oriented revenue.
Third, truth. If the truth requires that the hunt be banned, they
have to crush it, or at least bend it, to save them from their First
Great Fear, which they probably do not relish doing.
Truth-wise, this second confiscated paper reportedly suggested that
to 200 per cent more bears have been killed than should have been under
ministry's own sustainability guidelines." Such a statement, especially
if true, is tantamount to heresy in the eyes of the ministry, and I'm
to see that the confiscation backfired right off the bat. What it
accomplished is to propel the heretical statement on to the limelight.
Between the lines, the statement also says that government scientists
have no freedom of inquiry nor of speech, and that, indirectly, freedom
the press is curtailed from fully reporting on DeLeeuw's findings. So if
is forbidden to speak, then I will.
Demographics and projections
"So just lower the quota a little next year. What is the big deal?"
some say. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If overhunting is indeed
the case when following the government's policy guidelines, then there
something fundamentally wrong with the policies themselves. In the case
of Grizzly bear conservation, it is something as fundamental as the
population and poaching estimates.
Independent biologists estimate only 4,000-7,000 Grizzlies in BC, and
did the BC government back in the1970s. In the mid-80s, however,
for overhunting, instead of reducing the hunt, the government raised the
population estimate to 10,000-13,000, and 10,000-13,000 it has stayed.
This relatively high estimate is what is used to calculate the "huntable
which, if the true population be in fact lower, could work out to be 8%
or more. Even the 4% is considered by many biologists to be
especially with habitat loss factored in.
Long-term-viable breeding populations
The bears and tigers alike need 200-250 breeding animals in one
unfragmented habitat to prevent inbreeding. The Bengal tiger needs about
3,500 sq. km. to sustain 200-250 breeding tigers. The Grizzly bear and
the Siberian tiger need many times that. Therefore, Grizzly bear and
habitats can be fragmented much more easily than Bengal tiger habitat.
The habitat of the Grizzly bear, in both BC and Alberta, has been and
are being rapidly eroded, degraded and fragmented - by various human
activities such as BC's clearcut-logging of Grizzly bear habitat (again
Environment Ministry losing to the Forest Ministry), and mega-developments in the
centre of prime Grizzly bear habitat such as Alberta's Banff (a
example of a "Grizzly dam").
Tiger hunting, mostly for head-and-hide, was permitted until 1973. At
the beginning of the 20th Century, there were an estimated 80,000 tigers
India. In half a century, it was cut down to about 30,000. The stunner
came when a count in 1972 produced a country-wide estimate of only 1,800
tigers. The world and the Indian government reacted swiftly and in
1973, 25 tiger reserves were established and tiger trophy hunting was
banned, but perhaps too late. If trophy hunting was banned when there
30,000 tigers, even 10,000, there would have been a much greater
chance for the Bengal tiger.
We can still do this for our own Grizzlies, but we have to do it now.
As of the rise of the Asian economy, which induced a skyrocketing
for tiger bone, bear gall and rhino horn, the Asiatic bears were quickly
decimated, and the poaching pressure has moved across the ocean. It is
estimated that by the late 1990s, Canada-wide, one or two bears are
poached for the gall and paws for every bear legally hunted for trophy
(head-&-hide - also bear parts by the way). (e.g. Leggett, 1996;
Slobodian, 1996; Knights 1996). In contrast, the BC government's
poaching estimate, supported by the powerful prohunting lobby group the
Wildlife Federation, is as low as its total population estimate is high
one bear poached for every 3-4 legally hunted - to again convince the
general public that the bears are doing fine and should continue to be
On the contrary, the Canadian Wildlife Federation considers BC and AB
two most poached provinces in Canada.
All in all, many non-BC-government bear biologists estimate 300-600
Grizzly bears poached per year in Canada. Add this to the 300 or so
hunted, and the hundred or so shot at garbage dumps Ö How long can they
The public has the right to know and make their own decisions on this
important matter and the BC government must release the Deleeuw paper
for public consideration.
Heal Our Planet Earth Global Environmental Organization
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