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.
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.
The injured man was airlifted to a hospital where he is recovering from his injuries.
Etminan did not identify the victim but said he was a "polar bear guard" traveling aboard the MS Bremen because all cruise ships traveling in that region are required to have polar bear guards on board.
Four years earlier, 17-year-old Horatio Chapple from Britain was killed and four others injured when a polar bear attacked them at Von Postbreen, about 40 kilometers from Longyearbyen. The first guard apparently did not see the bear, which then attacked him and injured him "on his head". "In an act of self-defense, unfortunately, it was necessary for the polar bear to be shot dead".
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However, animal lovers including comedian Ricky Gervais have reacted furiously on social media after the German cruise company which organised the trip justified the decision to shoot the bear dead by describing it as "an act of self-defence". "On the contrary", the statement explains, "polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance".
In this case, one of the guards was attacked unexpectedly by a polar bear that had not been spotted.
But critics online say the bear was only acting like a bear, and didn't deserve to die.
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. Such teams are a requirement for all cruise ships that visit the area. "We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened". The area's 3 000 polar bears outnumber the human population, although that is probably set to change in the years to come. "Horribly, horribly wrong", one Twitter user wrote.