Polar bears look set to see their numbers dwindle by nearly third by mid-century, a top conservation body said Thursday, warning climate change poses the greatest threat to the king of the Arctic.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said a reassessment of the status of the polar bear in its famous Red List of threatened species confirmed the giant mammal's status as "vulnerable".
IUCN said there were currently between 22,000 and 31,000 polar bears globally, but warned their numbers were likely to shrink fast, with the rapid loss of their sea ice habitat due to global warming posing the greatest threat to their existence.
"We're expecting more than a 30-percent loss over the coming 35-40 years," Dena Cator of IUCN's Species Survival Commission told AFP.
The travails of polar bears, which no longer have as many floating ocean perches from which to hunt seals, has been well documented.