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Your morning adorable: Polar bear cubs venture out at Ouwehands Zoo

March 17, 2009 | 11:42 am

Polar bear cubs

The Netherlands' Ouwehands Zoo welcomed two polar bear cubs Dec. 14. This morning, they ventured out into the zoo's main polar-bear enclosure for the first time. 

Their timing is excellent: Polar bears are a hot topic today, with representatives from the U.S., Norway, Canada, Russia and Denmark meeting at a three-day, closed-door conference in the Norwegian town of Tromsoe to review their accord on protecting the world's polar bears. 

The group will reportedly discuss how best to protect critical polar-bear habitats, how to manage hunting and will examine ways to curb the environmental effects of both manmade toxins and greenhouse gases.  The Associated Press reports on the conference:

Hunting was the major threat to the bears when the agreement was signed in 1973. But although some indigenous communities still depend on hunts for food and income, experts say stricter hunting rules allowed some polar-bear populations to recover.

The big new threat is global warming, which experts say is shrinking the ice cap that polar bears need to hunt seals, their staple food.

"Climate change has taken over from hunting as the main threat to polar bears," [Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim] said at the meeting's opening ceremony. "We have to act to protect the ecosystem that polar bears are part of. Global warming has to be stopped if we want success."

Norway's Directorate for Nature Management said 60% of the world's polar bears could be gone by 2050 because global warming melted their habitat. About 1,900 to 3,600 of the animals are in a population Norway shares with neighboring Russia.

The group of nations agreed to hold the conference behind closed doors over objections from Norway.  Solheim told reporters of the decision was not according to his wishes and was not "in keeping with Norwegian political traditions."

There are an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the world today. 

More photos of these little guys after the jump!

Polar bear cubs

Polar bear cubs

--Lindsay Barnett

Photos: Rick Nederstigt / AFP / Getty Images

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