Polar bear shot dead after attacking cruise ship guard

Polar bear killed after attacking cruise ship employee in Norway

German Hapag Lloyd Cruises company is facing widespread criticism after a polar bear was shot dead for attacking a cruise ship guard in a remote region between Norway and the North Pole known for its glaciers and reindeer.

This worker is unidentified but is part of the ship's "Bear Watch Team" - an armed teamed trained to accompany the expedition leaders as they guide passengers on excursions.

If the guards had been successful in securing the land and there were no polar bears surrounding the site, tourists would have been permitted to disembark the ship to explore the land.

The animal was killed by the injured guard's colleague "in an act of self-defence", the German Hapag Lloyd Cruises company said.

The injured guard was airlifted to hospital in the town of Longyearbyen with non-life-threatening head injuries and remained in stable condition. His identity was not released.

"Polar Bear shot dead for being a wild animal in its own territory... outrageous!" another wrote.

The long-running cruise company said they had travelled to the destination for many years and were "very aware of its responsibility when travelling in environmentally-sensitive areas and respects all nature and wildlife".

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The Associated Press reports that 18 cruise ships are set to dock this week in Longyearbyen, Svalbard's largest settlement. "On the contrary", the statement explains, "polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance".

"Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has worked comprehensively and co-operatively with the Norwegian authorities to reconstruct and clarify the incident on the ground and will continue to do so", the company added.

Tourist expeditions are required to employ bear guards for the safety of the passengers. "We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened".

Reaction to the death of this polar bear has been swift.

No tourists had disembarked, Krause said, but four armed guards got off the vessel to inspect and secure the shore.

Polar bears have become poster animals for climate change, with scientists identifying human-driven global warming as the biggest threat to the bears' continued existence.

But critics online say the bear was only acting like a bear, and didn't deserve to die.

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