Vaigach national park may appear to help save the polar bear population
© Yaroslav Nikitin

Vaigach national park may appear to help save the polar bear population

The new Vaigach national park may be established in 2017 on the border between the Barents and Kara seas. The park will help preserve rare animal populations, Vsevolod Stepanitsky, Deputy Director of the Department of State Policy and Regulation of Nature Conservation at the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, told the TASS news agency.

"The ministry fully supports the creation of Vaigach national park. This will make it possible to preserve the Barents Sea polar bear and Novaya Zemlya reindeer populations listed in the Red Data books of Russia and the Nenets Autonomous Area. Vaigach national park may be established by late 2017," Stepanitsky noted.

The idea of establishing a national park on this Arctic island was proposed by WWF Russia. Along with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the administration of the Nenets Autonomous Area also supported the idea. "We have reached a principled agreement on establishing a national park on Vaigach Island. The first version of the national park's environmental and economic feasibility study has been drafted. In our opinion, it will take 1.5-2 years to eventually establish a new protected territory," WWF Russia Director Igor Chestin noted. His statement is posted on the WWF Russia website.

A regional wildlife sanctuary is currently located on Vaigach Island, TASS reported. The creation of a federal park will make it possible to more effectively protect the island from poachers, who have repeatedly killed polar bears here. Moreover, ecotourism will develop here, with travelers gaining an insight into the local animal kingdom and learning more about the Nenets ethnic group's traditional lifestyle.

There are also plans to create at least 15 jobs at the national park, which will provide employment for 50 percent of the island's active population. In all, 70 people live in Varnek, the only local village.

WWF estimates the global polar bear population at no more than 20,000-25,000, with 60 percent of them living in Canada. The Russian Arctic is home to 5,000-7,000 polar bears, parts of the Kara/Barents Sea, Laptev Sea and Chukotka-Alaska populations.