Moscow: Under a new initiative by WWF Russia, individuals and companies can become a foster parent of a polar bear for a one-time contribution of 30,000 rubles (about $1,000).
The money will be spent on conservation, protection and research of wild polar bears in the Russian Arctic, home to about 5,000-6,000 white bears or about a quarter of the worldwide polar bear population. Foster parents will receive a certificate and a polar bear statuette.
The campaign will begin November 24. WWF Russia estimates that about 500 polar bears will get "foster parents" by the end of 2012.
The money will be directed to support the "Bear Patrol" programme, under which groups of local residents patrol and prevent poaching at about 30 known polar bear habitats, including the Far Eastern Chukotka Peninsula, Dikson Island in the Kara Sea, Vaygach Island in the Arctic Ocean and Kolguyev Island in the Barents Sea.
"In the past year the number of reports about conflicts between humans and polar bears has almost tripled. Encounters between bears and human can be deadly for humans, but more often the animal dies as a result," a WWF Russia coordinator for Arctic conservation projects Mikhail Stishov said.
About 100 individuals and 120 companies took part in a similar campaign to foster parent an Amur tiger for 25,000 rubles.