Outrage is growing over the fatal shooting of a polar bear on the Spitsbergen island of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. A German crew member of the cruise ship “Bremen” was attacked by the bear, leading to one of his fellow employees shooting it dead.
The Hapag-Lloyd Cruise ship docked at Spitsbergen on Saturday, when the bear attacked a guard hired to go on shore before passengers to ensure there weren’t any bears in the area.
The guard was subsequently airlifted out with non-life-threatening head injuries, but the incident has sparked mass outcry online…
A ten-day trip aboard the cruise ship “Bremen” is an expensive one. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises promote their tours with the promise of an experience where “nature determines the course of eventful days”. Sightings of polar bears are part of the package.
However, tourists were not there when a ‘polar bear guard’ shot dead the animal at the weekend. According to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a crew member of the “Bremen” had gone ashore with other guards.
“The incident occurred when the four-person polar bear guard team, who are always on board for these expedition cruises as required by law, prepared for a shore leave,” the company said, as per CNN.
Whether self-defense or not, the vast majority of people online seem to be condemning the shooting. A number of popular figures have voiced concerns on Twitter regarding the preventability of said killing. British comedian Ricky Gervais led the criticism:
“‘Let’s get too close to a polar bear in its natural environment and then kill it if it gets too close,’ Morons,” he said.
Meanwhile, genealogist Jane Roberts suggested:
“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?”
Biologist Adam Hart had this to say:
“Tourism… again proving itself to be harmful to wildlife.”
Fellow biologist Daniel Schneider added his voice to the chorus of complaints:
“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.”
Polar bear guards
The so-called ‘polar bear guards’ are supposed to ensure the safety of travellers on guided tours onshore, according to the Huffington Post. The crew members are armed and receive special training for these types of situations.
During the incident on Saturday, however, there were no tourists to protect. Instead, the guards were setting up a landing gear protection station when the polar bear attacked. According to Ole Jakob Malmo of the Svalbard police, an investigation will be launched into the shooting.
Perhaps travel companies should stop using wild animals to fuel their tourism trade, and instead be willing to simply view these magnificent creatures from afar.
Share this post if you think there should be stricter regulations on tourism too. Not every corner of the world needs to be opened up to be used like a TV screen for humans. Spread the word if you agree!