The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, voted on Thursday against adopting stronger protections for polar bears during its meeting in Bangkok.

The CITES voted against a proposal presented by the United States with the support of Russia to halt the polar bear trade.

Canada, the only country authorized to export polar bear skins, teeth and paws, had opposed the proposal.

The proposal called for moving polar bears from Appendix 2 of CITES, which authorizes hunting and restricted trade, to Appendix 1, which bans all trade in listed species.

An alternative proposed by the European Union that would have left polar bears in Appendix 2, but with additional protections.

Environmentalists criticized the EU for preventing the adoption of measures to provide greater protection to polar bears.

Canadian Inuits, however, praised the move because they have traditionally hunted the endangered animals.

Only between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears live in the wild in the arctic regions of Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway and Greenland. EFE