Polar bear shot dead after attacking cruise ship guard

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

A polar bear has been shot dead after it attacked a cruise tour leader from a Hapag Lloyd Cruises vessel on Svalbard, Norway, on Saturday.

A polar bear was shot and killed after it attacked a guard guiding tourists off a cruise ship on Saturday, officials said. He is out of danger, with no threat to life.

"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", a post by a guide on the company's website stated.

The polar bear was then shot dead "in an act of self-defense" by the second guard, a spokeswoman said.

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

The comedian and animal lover also tweeted his anger over the polar bear shooting saying, "Let's get too close to a polar bear in its natural environment and then kill it if it gets too close". All ships in the area are required to have the guards to protect passengers from polar bears as they sightsee.

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The guard who was attacked, he said, had suffered head injuries but was now responsive and in "stable condition". "As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately".

The polar bear was shot dead by another employee, the cruise company said. The probe will include an examination of the polar bear.

He explained that usually, if a wild bear is seen, guards "shoot into the air" to scare the animal away.

In its Facebook statement, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises notes that landings on Spitsbergen are only possible in a few places and these are not done for polar bear observation. In Arctic regions, their numbers have declined - a development linked to the loss of sea ice.

But critics online say the bear was only acting like a bear, and didn't deserve to die. "This great predator has little respect for humans and unsafe situations can easily arise if people get too close", says the NPI, Norway's central governmental institution for scientific research in the Arctic.

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