Rich trophy hunters could push polar bears to extinction if the blood sport is allowed to continue, according to an award-winning wildlife photographer.
Photographer and conservationist Ole Liodden, who spent four years snapping the beasts said soaring demand for the iconic Arctic species’ furs in China is leading the species to be wiped out.
He said hunters butcher the healthiest and strongest males, leaving only weaker polar bears to pass on their genes.
Mr Liodden told the Mirror: “We have to stop trophy hunting and the commercial skin trade.
“It is the only way polar bears have a chance of survival.”
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Some 9,000 polar bears were sniped by hunters in the Arctic between 2007 and 2016, according to the most recent figures.
Only 2,500 are believed to remain in the wild and it is now classed as a threatened “vulnerable” species.
While climate change has played a part in limiting the polar bears’ feeding grounds, the main reduction to their numbers over the last 30 years is due to mass trophy hunting.
Canada’s Arctic region is now the only place in the world where you can legally hunt the beasts.
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The Daily Mirror claimed 12-day hunts can go for as much as £36,000 and skins alone can fetch £250,000 on the black market.
Mr Liodden told the publication: “The polar bear is one of the most exclusive species for trophy hunters to pursue.
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“But it is a species least suitable because of low cub survival, low reproduction rate, and climate change.
“Although a warmer climate may largely determine the future distribution of polar bears, the vast majority of the population reductions over the past 30 years are attributable to unsutainable hunting.”
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