At a news conference in Toronto, international entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson, and actress and WildAid Board Member Bo Derek, called for greater protection of Canada’s polar bears, announcing that legislation to protect the hundreds of polar bears living in northern Ontario will soon be tabled at Queen’s Park.
“The majestic and powerful polar bear is an iconic symbol of Canada around the world,” Branson said. “With their habitat increasingly threatened and their very survival in jeopardy, now is the time for action. We owe it to the next generation to ensure that these magnificent animals will live on in the Canadian north.”
Branson was in Toronto with his foundation Virgin Unite, in support of the Canadian chapter of WildAid, an international wildlife conservation organization leading the development of a Polar Bear Protection Act for Ontario. It will be tabled in the Ontario legislature as a Private Member’s Bill this spring.
Branson and Derek called on the business community as well as the general public to support greater protection for polar bears online by visiting wildaid.org/polarbears.
“We have a responsibility to protect this important species,” said WildAid founder Peter Knights. “Manitoba already has a Polar Bear Protection Act, and the federal government recently named the polar bear a ‘species of special concern’ under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. We need Ontario’s leadership on this.”
Ontario hosts the southernmost population of polar bears in the world, estimated at 700 to 1,000 bears. The loss of arctic ice is a significant threat, forcing an increasing number of bears to move ashore earlier in the year and for longer periods of time. Body mass, litter sizes and total numbers of bears are in decline, and renowned researcher Dr. Ian Stirling has predicted the extinction of the southernmost populations within the next 20 to 30 years unless current trends are reversed.