Polar bear killed after it attacked an Arctic cruise ship guard

Polar bear killed after it attacked an Arctic cruise ship guard

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

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

The polar bear was shot dead by another employee as it attacked their colleague.

Svalbardposten, who was first to report about the incident, says the tourists belonged to the cruise ship "MS Bremen".

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Polar bears have been protected in Norway since 1973 and almost 1,000 were counted on Svalbard during a 2015 census. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises spokesperson Negar Etminan said he suffered head injuries but they were non-life threatening.

Arctic tourism, now in high season, has been on the rise in recent years.

The bear was shot by another employee of the ship, the MS Brennan, "in an act of self-defense", a spokeswoman for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises told The Associated Press.

All ships in the area are required to have guards to protect passengers from polar bears as they sightsee.

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However, they failed to spot one bear who attacked one of the guards, the cruise line said.

"He was flown out, was responsive, and is now undergoing medical treatment", spokeswoman Negar Etminan said of their employee, adding that the victim was not in a life-threatening condition. "Landings are possible only in a few places".

According to Hapag-Llyod Cruises, the incident occurred when the four-person polar bear guard team was preparing for a shore leave. In 2015, Czech Jakub Moravec was pulled out of the tent by a polar bear, but escaped with slight damage.

English comedian, actor, writer and producer Ricky Gervais is among the hundreds of people that have taken to social media attacking the company for being "callous" and condemning tourism to highly sensitive wildlife areas.

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Svalbard is a remote, ice-covered wilderness which lies between Norway and the North Pole, where its 3,000 polar bears are thought to outnumber the human population.