A German cruise-ship operator came under fire Sunday after one of its employees killed a polar bear on the remote Arctic island of Spitzbergen.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a unit of Hapag-Lloyd AG HLAG, +6.15% , said in a statement that the bear was shot after it attacked a member of a shore party. “In an act of self-defense, unfortunately, it was necessary for the polar bear to be shot dead. We very much regret this incident,” the company said.
But critics said the crew members should not have encroached on the polar bear’s habitat in the first place.
Maybe cruise sightseeing tours shouldn’t take place then polar bear guards wouldn’t be needed to protect gawking tourists & polar bears would be left in peace & not shot dead merely to satisfy a photo op? https://t.co/OqOlAiYynN
— Jane Roberts (@JaneElRoberts) July 29, 2018
Tourism…again proving itself to be harmful to wildlife https://t.co/1ebeLpx7x7
— Prof Adam Hart (@AdamHartScience) July 29, 2018
This #polarbear home was invaded from tourists from the Cruise Ship MS Bremen. He defended himself, in his home, mildly injuring a “polar bear guard”. He was then shot dead. Here’s a thought. Why not look at the bears from afar and leave them alone. RT to Leave the Bears alone pic.twitter.com/8NkBT2JSt5
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) July 29, 2018
The two-man cruise line team had landed in Spitzbergen in order to ensure the area was bear-free and safe for tourists who planned on taking a short excursion from the ship. The cruise line said the landing was not intended to view polar bears, and that polar bears “are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance.”
“One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself,” Hapag-Lloyd said. “As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal, unfortunately, were not successful, there had to be intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person.”
The guard was suffered head injuries and was airlifted to a hospital, where he is expected to recover, according to the company.
Polar bears are considered a “vulnerable” species by the World Wildlife Federation, with about 25,000 left in the wild, and have become somewhat of a poster animal for the effects of global warming.
Spitzbergen is a Norwegian territory and part of the Svalbard archipelago, located about 1,200 miles north of mainland Norway. Arctic tourism has surged in recent years, with 18 cruise ships docking in Spitzbergen’s main port in the next week alone, according to the Associated Press.
Still, the roughly 3,000 polar bears on the island outnumber the number of humans who live there.
Want news about Europe delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Europe Daily newsletter. Sign up here.