24 Dec 2010

Polar bears deemed threatened, not endangered

12:30 pm on 24 December 2010

An American campaign to have polar bears listed as an endangered species has failed: the US government says it has not found that polar bears are on the brink of extinction.

The Department of the Interior upheld a decision to classify the bears as "threatened" - a status that gives them less protection under the law, the BBC reports.

To qualify for the higher status of "endangered", it would have had to be accepted that the animals are on the brink of extinction.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the status of "endangered" (but not the status of "threatened") requires the government to assess the impact of greenhouse gases on the bears' Arctic homelands.

Environmental campaigners have said they will challenge the decision. The Centre for Biological Diversity says polar bears face an 80% chance of extinction within 40 years.