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HTO wants polar bear studies stopped

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Scientists should not be allowed to tranquilize polar bears for scientific studies, said the membership of the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association this past Monday, when members voted unanimously to pass a motion calling for an end to the studies.

Discussion started when Jeetaloo Kakee, an HTA board member, told an animated story to the crowd, which had dwindled to about 40 people around by 11 p.m.

Kakee described traveling with a scientific team studying polar bears from Aug. 26 to Sept. 22. He recounted, in detail, how scientists flew in a helicopter until they spotted a bear, then tranquilized it before getting closer to take samples while it was asleep.

“We would always rush going to see that polar bear!” he said, in Inuktitut, laughing.

He described how scientists measured the bear from head to tail, around its chest, and the size of its nose. They clip fingernails, he said, and take a piece of skin from around the earlobe to put into a little bag. Next, they tattoo the bear on the lips, and pierce the bear’s ear with a plastic tag, and put an ointment on the ear to prevent infection. They also spray the bear with a bright color so they can see from the air which bears have already been tagged.

Kakee held up a screwdriver to illustrate about how long the tranquilizer needle is that delivers the dose of tranquilizer, and he also mentioned that it is not safe to eat polar bear meat from a bear that was tranquilized, as the chemical remains in the bear for a whole month, and sometimes up to a year.

Kakee also described how one polar bear cub was killed when the tranquilizer needle punctured its spine.

“It was paralyzed and losing blood. As a hunter you can’t forget that experience.”

That disturbed several audience members.

“As a hunter, I do not agree with this at all,” said David Alexander. “I am a hunter who provides food.”

Natsiq Kango agreed, and made the motion that polar bears not be tranquilized for the studies.

One audience member asked Kakee why he co-operated with the scientists.

“If I were not there, you wouldn’t have heard what I witnessed,” Kakee said.

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