The feature article on The Washington Post’s “Kid's Post” May 13, entitled “The Heat is On,” asked its young readers to consider whether or not polar bears "deserve" protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Department of the Interior has to decide by May 15 whether or not the animals should be on the Endangered Species list.
Citing higher temperatures "which scientists say are likely caused by greenhouse gases" and a reduction in sea ice as threats, the article posed questions such as "Why Does this Matter?" and "How Serious is the Problem?"
But in answering these questions, not all the facts were provided to help impressionable young minds learn about the issue. While the article estimated the polar bear population to be between 20,000 and 25,000, it didn’t mention that the total polar bear population was estimated at 5,000 in the 1970s. A kid would need to know only basic math to realize that a substantial increase in population does not add up to an “endangered” species.
“For the most part, polar bear populations have increased or remained stable under the current regulatory regime,” Dr. Mitchell Taylor, the manager of wildlife research for the government of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, said in an April 2006 letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In a letter to The Toronto Star in May 2006, Taylor wrote that “of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.” He called it “silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria.”
As far as explaining what this change in status for the polar bears would mean, The Washington Post said only, “In theory, a listing for the polar bear could trigger a plan with wide-reaching consequences.”