Polar bear killed after attack on Arctic cruise ship guard

Charlene Craig
July 31, 2018

The Joint Rescue Coordination for Northern Norway said on Twitter that the attack had occurred when tourists from the cruise ship MS Bremen landed on the northernmost island of the Svalbard archipelago, a region between mainland Norway and the North Pole known for its glaciers, reindeer and polar bears.

Another crew member from the MS Bremen, acting as a polar bear guard, is believed to have shot the bear after a group of tourists went ashore from the ship.

Earlier this month, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed that a 31-year-old man called Aaron Gibbons had been killed in a tragic polar bear attack while protecting his children in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

She said all cruise ships traveling in the northern region are obliged to have polar bear guards aboard.

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The guard suffered non-life-threatening head injuries and was airlifted out, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises said in a statement on Facebook. It was not clear who shot the bear.

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

Polar bears have been protected in Norway since 1973 and almost 1,000 were counted on Svalbard during a 2015 census. The polar bear was shot dead.

Usually "as soon as an animal approaches, the landing stops immediately", Krause added.

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He explained that usually, if a wild bear is seen, guards "shoot into the air" to scare the animal away. In 2008 polar bears were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act because of forecasted impacts of climate change. "We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened".

The company issued a statement apologizing for the incident and saying " Hapag-Lloyd Cruises very aware of its responsibility when travelling in environmentally-sensitive areas and respects all nature and wildlife". In Arctic regions, their numbers have declined - a development linked to the loss of sea ice.

With a population of 22,000 to 31,000, polar bears are considered "vulnerable" animals on the extinction risk chart.

One user suggested: "If you need a 4-person polar bear guard team perhaps you should not be visiting here".

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