Monday, August 29, 2011

Animal-human conflict zone

I wrote in Ecoratorio about the fine boundary between wildlife and humans- one which often transforms into a conflict zone. In fact, a recent example is that of the polar bear attack, three weeks ago, on a camp of British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) in the Norwegian island of Svalbard, resulting in the death of a 16 year old boy and serious wounding of three others. Another tragic incident came to light a week ago:

Alaska (as many would know) is a site of extensive oil and gas exploration and the oil field of Endicott found itself in the limelight.

A guard, working for BP’s security contractor Purcell, saw (circa Aug 3) a female polar bear prowling along a causeway near the employees’ housing sector. BP claims that the man tried to scare off the bear by sounding the horn of his car and flashing the headlights, but the bear remained undeterred. Thus, he used his weapon. Now, this is where it all becomes rather fishy.

The US Endangered Species Act lists polar bears as threatened with extinction and the Marine Mammal Protection Act generally forbids hunting of the animals. Thus, knowing that polar bears tend to visit human sectors in search of food (usually due to exposed garbage), oil operators in Alaska are permitted to scare away the bears by using 'nonlethal harassment' or 'hazing' method of using a gun loaded with a 'beanbag'. The guard shot at the bear only to find that the gun had been loaded with cracker shells (pyrotechnic) (it does seem amiss that the guard did not know which ammunition had been loaded!)

After being shot, the bear moved away and was apparently monitored by BP until she died of her wounds, 11 days later, in a nearby island. I do really hope that she didn’t have cubs somewhere whose fate would hang in balance by this death. Dying after undergoing a prolonged suffering for 11 days certainly indicates that she could have been treated by veterinarians. And the questions posed are why those who monitored her watched her die slowly without intervening? And why they did not immediately report the incident to the wildlife authorities who could have tranquilised and treated her?




Image Source: © Dan Guravich/CORBIS