• polar bear trafficking

    A new project is helping to decrease wildlife trafficking by inserting microchips into polar bear hides earlier this year. (Photo: Alan Wilson/Wikimedia Commons)

The practice of checking the provenance of something before you buy it can apply to almost anything these days, be it wine, meat, coffee or clothes. The latest item on that list? Canadian polar bear hides.

Discovering where a hide of the Arctic’s apex predator came from, however, has less to do with quality and more to do with combating wildlife trafficking. That’s why, as part of a pilot project operated by the federal ministry of environment and climate change, conservation officers in Nunavut and Labrador began inserting microchips into hides earlier this year. The chips allow both wildlife enforcement officers and buyers of polar bear hides to discover where the bear was hunted. A CBC report said that when combined with back-up DNA samples, the microchips will make it possible for people to see if the bear is from a population that is allowed to be exported, at any point in the supply chain. The information will also help with management practices.

"This is something that we're really excited about," Sheldon Jordan, the director general of the wildlife enforcement division of Environment and Climate Change Canada told the CBC. "We've tried it in a number of communities across Northern Canada and it seems to be working quite well."

Jordan told the CBC the project had been such as success so far that there were plans to expand it into communities in the Yukon and Northwest Territories this fall.