30 Jul 2018

Polar bear shot dead after attacking cruise ship guard

6:40 am on 30 July 2018

A polar bear has been shot dead after injuring a cruise ship guard on Norway's Svalbard archipelago, inside the Arctic Circle.

The polar bear shot by a guard on a cruise ship lies on the beach at Sjuøyane north of Spitzbergen, Norway, on July 28, 2018.

Photo: AFP

The guard was assigned to protect tourists who had landed on Svalbard's northernmost island from the MS Bremen, which is operated by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

He suffered non-life-threatening head injuries and is said to be in a stable condition.

The German cruise company said a second guard shot the bear "in self-defence".

Svalbard is a wilderness of glaciers and ice caps that lies between Norway and the North Pole.

An estimated 60 percent of it is covered with ice, and its 3000 polar bears are said to outnumber the human population.

The injured man was airlifted to hospital in the town of Longyearbyen, on Spitsbergen island.

All ships in the area are obliged to employ bear guards to protect passengers on sightseeing tours.

"There are very strict rules here as the islands are visited by many polar bears in the summer, so we all need to be vigilant when we are ashore," one guide wrote in a post on Hapag-Lloyd's website.

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An estimated 3000 polar bears live on Svalbard, a wilderness of glaciers and ice caps between Norway and the North Pole. Photo: 123rf.com

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

The bears' behaviour has been changed by the warming Arctic, where shrinking sea ice means they spend more time on land and are forced to hunt over greater distances.

The Associated Press reports that 18 cruise ships are set to dock this week in Longyearbyen, Svalbard's largest settlement.


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