Polar bear shot dead after attacking tour guard in the North Pole

Polar bear attacks cruise ship employee on Arctic island

Polar bear killed after attacking man on island off northern Norway

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

The injured man was airlifted to hospital in the town of Longyearbyen, on Spitsbergen island. "In an act of self-defence, unfortunately, it was necessary for the polar bear to be shot dead". Hapag-Lloyd Cruises spokesperson Negar Etminan said he suffered head injuries but they were non-life threatening.

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. "We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened".

An estimated 60% of it is covered with ice, and its 3,000 polar bears are said to outnumber the human population.

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According to Danielsen, it is unknown who shot and killed the polar bear or if the injured person is a part of the tourist group or the crew on the ship.

Polar bears have become poster animals for climate change, with scientists identifying human-driven global warming as the biggest threat to the bears' continued existence.

Critics lashed out at the tourists for travelling to a region with polar bears and then kill the animals when they become unsafe.

Meanwhile fellow Twitter user Gareth Stringer commented: "Polar bear shot for being a Polar Bear. Morons", British actor-comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted.

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Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has worked comprehensively and co-operatively with the Norwegian authorities to reconstruct and clarify the incident on the ground and will continue to do so.

"Polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance", the company says.

Arctic tourism to the region has risen sharply in the past few years and is now in high season, as people travel to visit the remote terrain, glaciers, reindeer and polar bears.

Last month, a 31-year-old Canadian man was killed while protecting his children from a polar bear in a popular Canadian fishing and hunting spot.

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