A bitter wind blows off the Arctic Ocean but the mother polar bear and her two cubs standing just 50ft in front of me are in their element.
For more than an hour I watch from a boat just offshore, transfixed and oblivious to the below-freezing temperatures, as the four-month-old twins gambol across the snow.
For years polar bears have been the poster boys of global warming – routinely reported to be threatened with extinction due to melting ice-packs and rising sea temperatures.
Indeed, when they were put on the US Endangered Species list in 2008, they were the first to be registered solely because of the perceived threat of global warming.
One prominent scientist said their numbers would be reduced by 70 per cent by 2050 while global warming proponents – including Al Gore and Sir David Attenborough – used emotive imagery to highlight their ‘demise’.
Yet there is one small problem: many polar bear populations worldwide are now stable, if not increasing.
According to a report compiled this year on Canadian polar bear populations by academics at Lakehead University, Ontario, only one out of 13 areas showed declining numbers. In fact, in some areas numbers have steadily increased.
In the Foxe Basin area in the Arctic Circle, aerial surveys show polar bear numbers have risen from 2,200 in 1994 to 2,580 in 2010, while the population in West Hudson Bay has increased from 935 in 2004 to 1,013 in 2011.
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