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              A police officer detains s Greenpeace activist dressed as a polar bear outside Gazprom

Greenpeace protests Arctic drilling as polar bears flourish

As many as 3,000 protesters took to the streets of London and marched alongside a double-decker-bus sized polar bear puppet, calling for bans on oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic.

The environmental group Greenpeace, which organized the protests, argues that oil and gas drilling contributes to global warming, which in turn reduces Arctic ice cover and causes polar bears to become endangered species.

“That ice is melting at a rapid rate meaning the ocean absorbs the sunlight resulting in a warmer earth,” writes Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s international executive director. ”Polar bears, seals, walruses and whales are just some of the species that call the Arctic home. And it’s all in danger.”

The protest comes amid news that the Arctic Sea’s ice coverage increased 60 percent — now covering one million more square miles of ice than at the same time last year. Media reports also show that there are more polar bears today than there were 40 years ago.

“There are far more polar bears alive today than there were 40 years ago,” author Zac Unger told NPR in an interview about his new book, “Never Look a Polar Bear in The Eye.” “There are about 25,000 polar bears alive today worldwide. In 1973, there was a global hunting ban. So once hunting was dramatically reduced, the population exploded.”

Additionally, a report from earlier this year found that polar bear populations in the area between Greenland and Canada may have reached the limits of what their natural environment can handle.

The polar bear was listed as a “threatened” species by the U.S. government in 2008 because of global warming — the first animal to be listed under the Endangered Species Act because of the anticipated effects of global warming.

But the government estimates there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide, living in Canada, Greenland, the northern Russian coast, islands of the Norwegian coast, and the northwest Alaskan coast.

Despite a seemingly flourishing polar bear population and rising Arctic ice coverage, environmentalists are still campaigning to ban oil and gas drilling in the region.

“The [polar bear] puppet, named Aurora, was animated by 15 puppeteers and carried the names of 3 million supporters to call for a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic,” The Guardian reports.

The protesters marched right up to Royal Dutch Shell’s London headquarters in what Greenpeace called a “family-friendly” event to raise awareness about the effects of drilling on the Arctic.

“We did stand outside Shell’s headquarters for around an hour holding banners calling for the Arctic to be protected,” a Greenpeace spokeswoman told BBC News. “Shell has an injunction out on us so we had to stand outside a line around the site.”

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