A polar bear was shot and killed by a cruise line employee after it injured another guard on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago.
The incident took place when the ship, MS Bremen, was docked at one of the largest islands on the archipelago, Spitsbergen. The cruise line, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, said the guard was hired to make sure the area was safe for tourists and to ensure there were no polar bears in the area.
According to the cruise line, the guard, who remains unnamed, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was in a stable condition. He was airlifted from the area after the attack.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises said another employee shot the animal dead “in an act of self-defense.”
“The incident occurred when the four-person polar bear guard team, who are always on board for these expedition cruises as required by law, prepared for a shore leave,” said a statement released by the cruise line.
The statement added, “There had to be intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person. We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened.”
Svalbard archipelago is known for its glaciers, reindeers and polar bears. Therefore, it is obligatory for cruise ships to make sure the area is safe for tourists, which is why they hire bear guards to ensure passengers’ safety.
Wildlife activists have criticized the action.
“It's incredibly tragic. When there's only 25,000 polar bears left on the planet, every one matters. When you are in this ecosystem as a tourist, as an explorer or as a scientist, you have the responsibility to follow the protocols to ensure that you stay safe and that you don't interfere with the wild behavior of polar bears,” said wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin.
The killing of the polar bear also stirred furor on social media.
"Let's get too close to a polar bear in its natural environment and then kill it if it gets too close". Morons. https://t.co/FEPt0sYOtF— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) July 29, 2018
Tourism...again proving itself to be harmful to wildlife https://t.co/1ebeLpx7x7— Prof Adam Hart (@AdamHartScience) July 29, 2018
Maybe cruise sightseeing tours shouldn’t take place then polar bear guards wouldn’t be needed to protect gawking tourists & polar bears would be left in peace & not shot dead merely to satisfy a photo op? https://t.co/OqOlAiYynN— Jane Roberts (@JaneElRoberts) July 29, 2018
According to the Norwegian government, polar bears on one of the largest islands on the archipelago outnumber humans.
Spotlight, Banner: Gustav Busch Arntsen/Governor of Svalbard/NTB Scanpix/via REUTERS