Polar bear shot dead on Svalbard

The man was a crew member onboard MS Bremen operated by Hapag Lloyd Cruises. Source Hapag-LloydMore

Animal rights activists are furious, after a German cruise ship employee shot and killed a polar bear in an island on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard on Saturday.

Hapag-Lloyd assured the landing was not for polar bear observation as guests are only allowed to view the wild animals on board and from a safe distance.

A Hapag-Lloyd spokesman said the bear had been shot by the man's colleague "in an act of self-defence".

The incident occurred when tourists left the cruise ship MS Bremen in a dinghy before they landed on Parry Island, which is the part of Svalbard.

The condition for the injured person, who was transported back to Longyearbyen by helicopter, is reported to be stable. His identity was not released. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is very aware of its responsibility when travelling in environmentally-sensitive areas and respects all nature and wildlife. The first guard apparently did not see the bear, which then attacked him and injured him "on his head".

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Tourist expeditions are required to employ bear guards for the safety of the passengers. "As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately". In 2015, Czech Jakub Moravec was pulled out of the tent by a polar bear, but escaped with slight damage.

Critics on Twitter, including British comedian Ricky Gervais, blamed the attack on human intrusion into polar bear territories.

Insane idea - don't let the guards or tourists get close enough to a polar bear that it might attack.

Given that the current "population status" of polar bears is listed as "vulnerable" due to their decreasing number, it is perhaps not surprising that the company has come under intense fire for how the incident played out.

Four years earlier, 17-year-old Horatio Chapple from Britain was killed and four others injured when a polar bear attacked them at Von Postbreen, about 40 kilometers from Longyearbyen.

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