Polar bear killed after attack on Arctic cruise ship guard

Polar bear attacks cruise ship employee on Arctic island

Polar bear attacks cruise ship employee on Arctic island

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

The operator of the German cruise ship MS Bremen, the Hapag Lloyd Cruises company, told the Associated Press on Saturday that the bear had been shot "in an act of self defence" by a second guard after one of the crew members "was attacked by a polar bear and injured on his head".

The man was working as a polar bear guide aboard the MS Bremen.

Tourist expeditions are required to employ bear guards for the safety of the passengers.

The injured man was flown by helicopter to the town of Longyearbyen - the main settlement on the Arctic archipelago - on the island of Spitsbergen.

Norwegian authorities confirmed the bear was shot and killed on Saturday.

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No details were given on his identity or how the attack happened, but the rescue group tweeted that the polar bear was shot dead.

He suffered non-life-threatening head injuries and is said to be in a stable condition. "On the contrary", the statement explains, "polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance".

He explained that usually, if a wild bear is seen, guards "shoot into the air" to scare the animal away. "One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself".

The animal attacked the guard after the boat docked at the island, with the two men reaching land before the tourists.

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 2015, Czech Jakub Moravec was pulled out of the tent by a polar bear, but escaped with slight damage.

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