Australian Redback Spider Bites Rise in Osaka, Anti-Venom Low

By Adam Le

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Redback spider bites increased to 13 in western Japan’s Osaka Prefecture this year, the most since 1995, when the poisonous arachnid was first thought to have migrated from Australia on cargo vessels.

The number of reported cases increased from nine last year, according to the prefectural government’s Web site. In June, a six-year-old boy in Osaka was given the anti-venom after being bitten, the first case of the treatment being used in Japan.

“We have low reserves of the anti-venom,” Takashi Kuramochi, a spokesman for the prefecture’s Environmental Hygiene Department, said today by telephone. “I don’t know why the number of redback bites is up.”

The redback, common in Australia and related to the black widow, delivers a bite that can cause severe pain and possibly death, according to the Australia Museum’s Web site. No deaths from the spider’s bite have been reported after Australia introduced anti-venom, the Web site says.

Called “Seakagoke-gumo” in Japanese, the spider was first found in 1995 in Takaishi in southern Osaka. It has since been sighted in 16 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, the Asahi newspaper reported, citing the country’s environment ministry.

No deaths from bites by redbacks, so named because of the red stripe on their abdomen, have been reported in Japan. Females of the species have bodies up to 1 centimeter in length, while males are usually 3 or 4 millimeters long.


Japanese researchers film rare baby fish 'fossil'

Tue Nov 17, 6:39 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese marine researchers said on Tuesday they had found and successfully filmed a young coelacanth -- a rare type of fish known as "a living fossil" -- in deep water off Indonesia.

The creature was found on October 6 at a depth of 161 metres (528 feet) in Manado Bay off Sulawesi Island, where the Indonesian coelacanth was first discovered, according to the researchers.

Video footage showed the 31.5 centimetre (12.6-inch) coelacanth, coloured blue with white spots, swimming slowly among rocks on the seabed for about 20 minutes.

"As far as we know, it was the first ever video image of a living juvenile coelacanth, which is still shrouded in mystery," said Masamitsu Iwata, a researcher at Aquamarine Fukushima in Iwaki, northeast of Tokyo.

Scientists hope the discovery will shed light on the habitat and breeding habits of coelacanths.

The researchers used a remotely operated, self-propelled vehicle to film the coelacanth, which appeared to be newly born, Iwata said.

A similar-sized juvenile was once discovered in the belly of a pregnant coelacanth. It is believed that their eggs hatch inside the female and the young fish are fully formed at the time of birth.

Coelacanths are commonly regarded as having evolved little from prehistoric times and were thought to be extinct until a living specimen was discovered in 1938 off the coast of southern Africa.


Jellyfish swarm northward in warming world

By MICHAEL CASEY, AP Environmental Writer Michael Casey, Ap Environmental Writer

Mon Nov 16, 8:37 am ET

KOKONOGI, Japan – A blood-orange blob the size of a small refrigerator emerged from the dark waters, its venomous tentacles trapped in a fishing net. Within minutes, hundreds more were being hauled up, a pulsating mass crowding out the catch of mackerel and sea bass.

The fishermen leaned into the nets, grunting and grumbling as they tossed the translucent jellyfish back into the bay, giants weighing up to 200 kilograms (450 pounds), marine invaders that are putting the men's livelihoods at risk.

The venom of the Nomura, the world's largest jellyfish, a creature up to 2 meters (6 feet) in diameter, can ruin a whole day's catch by tainting or killing fish stung when ensnared with them in the maze of nets here in northwest Japan's Wakasa Bay.

"Some fishermen have just stopped fishing," said Taiichiro Hamano, 67. "When you pull in the nets and see jellyfish, you get depressed."

This year's jellyfish swarm is one of the worst he has seen, Hamano said. Once considered a rarity occurring every 40 years, they are now an almost annual occurrence along several thousand kilometers (miles) of Japanese coast, and far beyond Japan.

Scientists believe climate change — the warming of oceans — has allowed some of the almost 2,000 jellyfish species to expand their ranges, appear earlier in the year and increase overall numbers, much as warming has helped ticks, bark beetles and other pests to spread to new latitudes.

The gelatinous seaborne creatures are blamed for decimating fishing industries in the Bering and Black seas, forcing the shutdown of seaside power and desalination plants in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, and terrorizing beachgoers worldwide, the U.S. National Science Foundation says.

A 2008 foundation study cited research estimating that people are stung 500,000 times every year — sometimes multiple times — in Chesapeake Bay on the U.S. East Coast, and 20 to 40 die each year in the Philippines from jellyfish stings.

In 2007, a salmon farm in Northern Ireland lost its more than 100,000 fish to an attack by the mauve stinger, a jellyfish normally known for stinging bathers in warm Mediterranean waters. Scientists cite its migration to colder Irish seas as evidence of global warming.

Increasingly polluted waters — off China, for example — boost growth of the microscopic plankton that "jellies" feed upon, while overfishing has eliminated many of the jellyfish's predators and cut down on competitors for plankton feed.

"These increases in jellyfish should be a warning sign that our oceans are stressed and unhealthy," said Lucas Brotz, a University of British Columbia researcher.

Here on the rocky Echizen coast, amid floodlights and the roar of generators, fishermen at Kokonogi's bustling port made quick work of the day's catch — packaging glistening fish and squid in Styrofoam boxes for shipment to market.

In rain jackets and hip waders, they crowded around a visitor to tell how the jellyfish have upended a way of life in which men worked fishing trawlers on the high seas in their younger days and later eased toward retirement by joining one of the cooperatives operating nets set in the bay.

It was a good living, they said, until the jellyfish began inundating the bay in 2002, sometimes numbering 500 million, reducing fish catches by 30 percent and slashing prices by half over concerns about quality.

Two nets in Echizen burst last month during a typhoon because of the sheer weight of the jellyfish, and off the east coast jelly-filled nets capsized a 10-ton trawler as its crew tried to pull them up. The three fishermen were rescued.

"We have been getting rid of jellyfish. But no matter how hard we try, the jellyfish keep coming and coming," said Fumio Oma, whose crew is out of work after their net broke under the weight of thousands of jellyfish. "We need the government's help to get rid of the jellyfish."

The invasions cost the industry up to 30 billion yen ($332 million) a year, and tens of thousands of fishermen have sought government compensation, said scientist Shin-ichi Uye, Japan's leading expert on the problem.

Hearing fishermen's pleas, Uye, who had been studying zooplankton, became obsessed with the little-studied Nomura's jellyfish, scientifically known as Nemopilema nomurai, which at its biggest looks like a giant mushroom trailing dozens of noodle-like tentacles.

"No one knew their life cycle, where they came from, where they reproduced," said Uye, 59. "This jellyfish was like an alien."

He artificially bred Nomura's jellyfish in his Hiroshima University lab, learning about their life cycle, growth rates and feeding habits. He traveled by ferry between China to Japan this year to confirm they were riding currents to Japanese waters.

He concluded China's coastal waters offered a perfect breeding ground: Agricultural and sewage runoff are spurring plankton growth, and fish catches are declining. The waters of the Yellow Sea, meanwhile, have warmed as much as 1.7 degrees C (3 degrees F) over the past quarter-century.

"The jellyfish are becoming more and more dominant," said Uye, as he sliced off samples of dead jellyfish on the deck of an Echizen fishing boat. "Their growth rates are quite amazing."

The slight, bespectacled scientist is unafraid of controversy, having lobbied his government tirelessly to help the fishermen, and angered Chinese colleagues by arguing their government must help solve the problem, comparing it to the effects of acid rain that reaches Japan from China.

"The Chinese people say they will think about this after they get rich, but it might be too late by then," he said.

A U.S. marine scientist, Jennifer Purcell of Western Washington University, has found a correlation between warming and jellyfish on a much larger scale, in at least 11 locations, including the Mediterranean and North seas, and Chesapeake and Narragansett bays.

"It's hard to deny that there is an effect from warming," Purcell said. "There keeps coming up again and again examples of jellyfish populations being high when it's warmer." Some tropical species, on the other hand, appear to decline when water temperatures rise too high.

Even if populations explode, their numbers may be limited in the long term by other factors, including food and currents. In a paper last year, researchers concluded jellyfish numbers in the Bering Sea — which by 2000 were 40 times higher than in 1982 — declined even as temperatures have hit record highs.

"They were still well ahead of their historic averages for that region," said co-author Lorenzo Ciannelli of Oregon State University. "But clearly jellyfish populations are not merely a function of water temperature."

Addressing the surge in jellyfish blooms in most places will require long-term fixes, such as introducing fishing quotas and pollution controls, as well as capping greenhouse gas emissions to control global warming, experts said.

In the short term, governments are left with few options other than warning bathers or bailing out cash-strapped fishermen. In Japan, the government is helping finance the purchase of newly designed nets, a layered system that snares jellyfish with one kind of net, allowing fish through to be caught in another.

Some entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are trying to cash in. One Japanese company is selling giant jellyfish ice cream, and another plans a pickled plum dip with chunks of giant jellyfish. But, though a popular delicacy, jellyfish isn't likely to replace sushi or other fish dishes on Asian menus anytime soon, in view of its time-consuming processing, heavy sodium overload and unappealing image.


Associated Press writer Shino Yuasa contributed to this report from Tokyo.


Japan catches 59 whales off northern island

TOKYO – Japan said Monday it has caught 59 whales — one short of the maximum allowed by international guidelines — under a research program that critics say is a cover for commercial whaling.

The annual expedition off the port city of Kushiro ended over the weekend after harvesting 59 minke whales, the Fisheries Agency said in a statement. A maximum of 60 is allowed under the research program authorized by the International Whaling Commission.

Japan and other pro-whaling nations have been pushing for the IWC to revoke the 1986 ban on commercial hunts amid arguments over the number of whales left in the world's oceans.

Japan also annually hunts about 1,000 whales in the Antarctic Ocean and the northwest Pacific Ocean under an IWC research program.

Critics say the expeditions are a cover for commercial whaling because the harvest is sold to market for consumption.

As in previous years, the Fisheries Agency said the hunt off Hokkaido was aimed at studying the whales' feeding patterns and their effect on fish stocks. Findings will be presented at next year's meeting of the IWC.

During the 12-day expedition, whalers caught 36 male whales and 23 females, the agency said. Examination of their stomach contents found that the minkes most commonly fed on pollack, krill and anchovy in the research area, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the coast of Kushiro in the Pacific Ocean, it said.

Kushiro is 895 kilometers (556 miles) northeast of Tokyo.


'I hate whale meat,' Japan's PM confides: report

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has revealed he dislikes whale meat, a newspaper reported Saturday, in an unusual confession for the prime minister of a country that defies Western criticism of whaling.
"I hate whale meat," Hatoyama said during a meeting with his visiting Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende on Monday at the prime minister's office, the Sankei Shimbun reported.
The Netherlands is one of several anti-whaling countries that allows the radical environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to register a vessel in the country.
The group's activists have repeatedly harassed Japanese whaling vessels in Antarctic waters. During the last hunt a Sea Shepherd vessel collided with a whaling ship, sparking allegations that the group was behaving irresponsibly.
Despite Hatoyama's reported dislike of whale meat, however, he urged Balkenende to take action against the group over its attacks on Japanese whalers in the Antarctic, government officials said.
Japan hunts whales by using a loophole in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows "lethal research" on the creatures, but makes no secret of the fact that the meat often ends up on dining tables.
Tokyo often accuses Western critics of insensitivity toward its culture and heritage.
Hatoyama's centre-left government, which took office in October, has deviated little from the pro-whaling policies adopted by the previous administration, which had traditionally close ties with farmers and fishermen.


maneki neko

maneki neko, originally uploaded by mrcraige.

Water Buffalo, Yubu Island

Water Buffalo, Yubu Island, originally uploaded by twiga_swala.

Pinisara lizard, Iriomote

Pinisara lizard, Iriomote, originally uploaded by lite-craft.

Hooguro-yamori of Iriomote Island

Funauki, Iriomote Island (8)

Funauki, Iriomote Island (8), originally uploaded by merg japan.

, originally uploaded by 苹果核.

, originally uploaded by 苹果核.

gorgeous shiba inu - wildlife photography

Shiba Inu Hiro on Snow 4

Shiba Inu Hiro on Snow 4, originally uploaded by pjen.


Silk spider

Silk spider, originally uploaded by shinichiro*.

Come Here Said the Spider to the Dragonfly

Japan: Shinjuku Spider detail

, originally uploaded by David Panevin.

Follow the Spider III

Follow the Spider III, originally uploaded by David Panevin.

Big female

Big female, originally uploaded by Ryan deployed.

Not from Japan, but worth a mention

camel spider

camel spider, originally uploaded by stikle5.

Not from Japan, but so scary, worth a mention

Japan Bear Does Kung-fu like Exhibition

Escape from the Combine!

Escape from the Combine!, originally uploaded by jcowboy.

afternoon nap

afternoon nap, originally uploaded by chica chkalova.

Narita Yume Bokujo

Narita Yume Bokujo, originally uploaded by Tiger Machine.


わんこ, originally uploaded by hamapenguin.

Japan Town Tests Dolphin Eaters for Mercury Levels, Times Says

By Anna Kitanaka

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Taiji, a town in western Japan known for its annual dolphin hunts, will test residents for mercury poisoning from eating the mammal’s meat, the Japan Times said.

Residents who had regular health checks between June and August were asked to have a sample of hair tested for methylmercury, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified city official. The results are expected by March, the report said.

The Taiji Fisheries Cooperative hasn’t killed any dolphins for food this hunting season, catching the animals only for sale to aquariums, the report said.

The hunt, which began last month and runs through February in the town 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Osaka, received worldwide attention with the release this summer of “The Cove,” a documentary by U.S. filmmakers that shows the dolphin cull through footage shot with hidden cameras.

Dolphin hunting for food in Japan dates back as long as 9,000 years and the town’s hunt is legal under international and domestic law, according to a Web site operated by Taiji’s fishing association.

According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, 1,623 dolphins were killed in 2007 in Wakayama, the prefecture where Taiji is located, the second-highest number after Iwate in northern Japan. Eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures are permitted to hunt dolphins, with the number killed targeted at around 20,000 annually, according to the agency.

Broome, Taiji’s sister-city town in western Australia, this week reversed a decision to cut its relationship with Taiji after expressing concern about the dolphin hunt, according to a separate Japan Times article today.


Bear attack at Japanese bus terminal leaves 9 injured - with video

An Asian black bear entered a mountain bus terminal in central Japan and then started attacking visitors and employees. Nine people were injured, four seriously, before the bear was cornered and finally shot by local hunters at the request of police.
The incident started at a little after 2pm yesterday, September 18th (JST), at the Hita-Nyukawa Noriraku Mountain Bus Terminal in Gifu prefecture, about 170 miles northwest of Tokyo, according to reports.
The 4 or 5 year old male black bear, which is said to have been a little over 4-feet long and 2.5-feet tall, entered the terminal parking lot from a mountain path and proceeded to start chasing one visitor. Another visitor tried to beat back the bear with a stick, but the bear retaliated, seriously injuring the man. Several employees then tried to help the injured man, but were also wounded by the bear, according to reports.
Other people tried to chase off the bear by honking car horns, but ended up only causing it to retreat into the terminal's building. Several more people were harmed in the process. A panic began, but finally one employee was able to corner the bear into a souvenir shop by spraying a fire extinguisher and then trapping it in the shop by closing the shop's shutters.
The police eventually arrived with several local hunters and put the bear down. The injured were evacuated to local hospitals via ambulance and medical helicopter. In total, 7 men and 2 women were reported to have been hurt. The most severe received major wounds to face, as well as broken bones and other injuries.
The attack has come during a heavy fall travel period that has been dubbed “Silver Week.”  A researcher from the Japan Bear Network told Japanese reporters that “this time is the number one most dangerous period” within the year for encounters between humans and bears. Bears start feverishly looking for food to prepare for their winter hibernation. “While bears are obsessing over food, cases of contact with humans significantly increase,” the researcher warned. He also said, “You absolutely shouldn’t try to scare off a bear with a stick or loud noises.”


A fleur de lys... ( orthetrum à stylets blancs )


Shiba Inu 柴犬 Daitan 大胆 ("Hiroshi" 浩)

The dogu have something to tell us

The dogu have something to tell us

Neither human nor animal, Japan's Jomon sculptures are a mystery to be enjoyed

Special to The Japan Times
LONDON — They are, according to their kanji, part earth and part spirit, somewhere between animal and human. They are dogu, the most remarkable products of Japan's Jomon Period, a Neolithic era before the advent of rice cultivation, when the Japanese archipelago supported higher population densities than any other pre-agricultural society in the world.

News photo
Tanabatake "Venus": A big-bottomed dogu from Nagano Prefecture, 2500-1500 B.C. CHINO CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION

The dogu are humanoid forms shaped in clay, large and small, richly decorated or homely and unadorned. Some 18,000 of them have been unearthed to date, in Jomon-period settlements stretching from Kyushu, north through Tohoku to Hokkaido. The oldest are nearly 10,000 years old, the youngest a mere 2,300. Yet despite their advanced age, they're on the move.
Sixty-seven dogu, loaned from collections across Japan, have taken up temporary residence in the British Museum, London, for a new exhibition: "The Power of Dogu." In December, they return home for three months' display at Tokyo National Museum.
The dogu are oddly hypnotic, a parade of the beautiful, brutal and uncanny: a cat-faced dogu, designed without legs; a dogu with an outsize heart-shaped face; a sturdy dogu wearing an enigmatic triangular mask, and perhaps most famous of all, a "goggle-eyed" dogu from Kamegaoka covered in stippled and corded markings.
There are dogu with horns, with flat heads, bow-legs, dogu wearing bodices, knee-pads, dogu holding pots. Some dogu invite immediate empathy, like the fragmentary figure of a mother cradling a baby; others, like the lofty standing dogu, nearly half a meter tall, appear hieratic and inscrutable. It seems hard to believe they could all represent a common phenomenon, one to which Meiji Era archaeologists in 1882 first gave the name "dogu."
"The rich diversity of the dogu tradition is one of the themes we wanted to present in the exhibition," explains curator Dr. Simon Kaner, an archaeologist of the Sainsbury Institute who specializes in the prehistory of Japan. "The Japanese archipelago during the Jomon period was occupied by a large number of different groups of people, or different societies — we should talk not of Jomon culture but Jomon cultures, Jomon peoples and not Jomon people. They probably spoke a number of different dialects and expressed themselves through a huge range of pottery styles — over 400 local styles have been recognized to date."
Indeed, the dogu are both an intensely local form of expression, and also manifest a shared urge by Neolithic peoples around the world to represent the human form in clay. Humanoid figures of a comparable age have been found as far afield as Mexico, Turkey, Ecuador, Romania and Egypt. Curiously, Japan's nearest neighbors do not appear to have had an equivalent tradition.

News photo
Dogu aesthetics: A hollow clay figure, 1500-1000 B.C., from Chobonaino, Hokkaido. © OGAWA TADAHIRO / HAKODATE CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION
"There are very few ceramic figures from the Korean Peninsula," says Kaner. "And in China the human form was represented by painting on pots, or by very different forms, like the 'temple' or 'shrine' from Niuheliang, which has life-size unbaked clay figures around the walls."
So what did the dogu mean to their Jomon makers? The British Museum exhibition is part of an ongoing debate in the field of Neolithic studies as to the nature and purpose of early sculptural representation of the human form.
The 1960s saw a proliferation of theories around so-called "mother goddess" figures, often nicknamed "Venus." (Indeed, pride of place in the current exhibition goes to a big-bottomed dogu known as the Tanabatake "Venus" — a label Kaner agrees is "not very helpful.") The "Venus" theory has declined in popularity in recent years, while scientists working on a hoard of 2,000 figures found at Catalhoyuk in Turkey announced earlier this month a new hypothesis that the artifacts were not ritual objects, but simply toys.
The function of dogu remains mysterious. Many were, like the Catalhoyuk figurines, "everyday" objects — the majority have been found broken, some in heaps. If they were toys, what does that imply about the status of children, or the very idea of childhood, in Jomon cultures? Some dogu were, certainly, given special treatment — placed alongside burials or "enshrined" in pits. Kaner thinks "there is scope for both 'everyday' figures and objects of veneration within the dogu tradition."
Whatever their ritual or workaday function, the dogu are also, irresistibly, art. Their whimsical forms enchant, and their craftsmanship — some dogu are large and hollow, many are perfectly balanced and freestanding — is undoubted. An essay in the handsome catalog makes a case for the dogu as art, and for the current exhibition as a "turning point" in the wider recognition of that artistry. Their first champion in this regard, however, was the avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto, whose "The Myth of Tomorrow" was unveiled in Shibuya Station last year.
Okamoto's work, both painting and sculpture, was profoundly influenced by his affinity with Jomon design. He wrote of one encounter with a piece of Jomon pottery: "My blood boiled to a tremendous heat and then burst into flames." On another occasion, he reflected: "The violent existence of Jomon ceramics manifests itself in a pulse of energy that can never be grasped by normal aesthetics and intellectual control."
Another Jomon enthusiast was Nobel prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata, who had a dogu on his desk. It is a lugubrious figure with a heart-shaped face, and Kawabata described in an essay how "it is sitting here in front of my writing paper and speaking to me."
Dogu still speak — albeit through rather different media today. They feature in the "Understanding Japanese History" comic-book series narrated by cult robocat Doraemon, whose human sidekick Nobita remarks that they "look like aliens." In the PlayStation game "Dokioki," the dogu are indeed aliens. Shinji Nishikawa's "Dogu Famir," a seven-volume comic series, features a family of figurines trying to fit into everyday life — shopping, attending school and protecting the usual assortment of scantily-clad manga heroines from an evil, UFO-controlled dogu.
In the British Museum's beautifully presented exhibition space, it is a pleasure to pull up a folding seat and sit in front of a dogu. They have so much to say.
"The Power of Dogu: Ceramic Figures from Ancient Japan" is running at the British Museum, London, Room 91, till Nov. 22; admission is free. The show moves to the Tokyo National Museum, Room T5 Honkanon, from Dec. 15 to Feb. 21, 2010.

Japanese Town Slaughters Dolphins

File photo shows Japanese fishermen riding a boat loaded with ...

File photo shows Japanese fishermen riding a boat loaded with ...
AFP/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society/File
Thu Sep 10, 3:18 AM ET
File photo shows Japanese fishermen riding a boat loaded with slaughtered dolphins at the blood-covered water cove in Taiji harbor. A Japanese coastal town has gone ahead with its controversial dolphin hunt, shrugging off protests from animal-rights activists, local officials said Thursday.
(AFP/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society/File)

Japan faces pressure to stop importing polar bear products

Kyodo News
Japan is considered the world's No. 1 importer of polar bear products, with items such as furs and rugs widely sold on the Internet.
News photo
Bearing down: Polar bears are in danger of extinction due to climate change. U.S. NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION / KYODO
But with the bears at risk due to climate change and the U.S. government making moves to protect them, Japan could become a target of criticism for its lax policy.
According to environmental protection groups, exports and imports of skins and other bear products resulting fetch a high price on the international market, which is reflected on Japanese Web sites.
An estimated 400 to 700 polar bear pelts are bought and sold every year around the world. Canada is the leading exporter and Japan the leading importer.
Import data shows that customers in Japan purchased 413 fur pieces in 2007. Japan became the No. 1 buyer when the United States designated polar bears as an endangered species and imposed a ban on imports of bear products in 2008.
The U.S. government is studying a proposal calling for prohibitions on international transactions of arctic polar bears, including furs and stuffed bears, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention.
Environmental groups are also working with governments and individuals in various countries to support banning such transactions.
The United States is expected to decide by mid-October whether to make the proposal after considering opinions of other governments as well as environmental groups.
It is studying the possibility of proposing to a meeting of signatory countries next March that the level of protection for polar bears stipulated in the Washington Convention be raised to appendix No. 1 from No. 2. This would institute a total international ban on commercial polar bear transactions. Appendix No. 2 makes it obligatory for exporting countries to issue permits.
More than two-thirds of nations attending the conference will have to vote yes if shipments of polar bears are to be outlawed.
Polar bears in the United States, Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway have become a symbol of the threat of climate change. According to scientists, melting sea ice in the Arctic has increased the number of bears dying of starvation and has cut down on breeding.
Environmental groups, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, have launched a campaign to urge the U.S. government to submit the proposal to the Washington Convention meeting, saying that the illegal hunting of polar bears for commercial purposes threatens their habitat.
"Polar bears are popular in Japan, but they are under threat of extinction due to the effects of climate change," said Naoko Funabashi of the IFAW Japan office. "Imported polar bear rugs and ornaments are being sold domestically. Together with the protection of the habitat of polar bears, a ban on commercial transactions is a very important measure to protect them."