UN: Polar bears among species to be hotly debated

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Polar Bear peers over the edge of an ice floe, Svalbard archipelago, Norway

Polar Bear peers over the edge of an ice floe, Svalbard archipelago, Norway (AP photo)

GENEVA (AP) – Nations will be asked to decide whether the polar bear should be considered an endangered species because of global warming.

The U.S. proposal to increase the protection given to polar bears was among 67 proposals submitted before Friday’s deadline for consideration by CITES,  the Geneva-based International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon told reporters the polar bear plan and proposals to better combat the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn are expected to be among the most contentious items at the treaty talks next March in Bangkok.

Scanlon says the unregulated, illegal wildlife trade ranges anywhere from $8 billion to $20 billion a year.

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