It’s a tragic reminder that adventure cruising means encroaching on a world that is not ours alone.

When guards from the MS Bremen shot a wild polar bar in the Arctic between Norway and the North Pole, the German cruise line Hapag Lloyd immediately came under attack.

Commedian Ricky Gervais Tweeted:

David Steen, a wildlife ecologist and conservation biologist, called the killing of the polar bear the “dark side of eco-tourism.”

“It’s incredibly tragic,” wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin told CNN. “When there’s only 25,000 polar bears left on the planet, every one matters.”

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle shared a reminder on Twitter that the polar bear was in its natural habitat and not on the cruise ship, and that tourists got “dangerously close” so the bear lost its life.

Cruise Passenger’s Facebook page also leapt to the bear’s defence.

The rare and endangered bears are one of the big draw cards which lure passengers in increasing numbers to the ice.

Most understood that the animal, which was attacking one of four advance guards whose mission was to ensure the safety of passengers, had to be restrained.

But some make the point that it was the bear’s territory that was being invaded.

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Hapag Lloyd Cruises is a very experienced adventure cruise operator. They were caught by surprise not just by the bear, but by the reaction to the death of an icon of the ice.

Pictures of the stricken beast went around the world – and immediately sparked a debate.

The ice is the endangered polar bear’s domain. The guards and their charges were the interlopers. Couldn’t something more have been done to save the animal?

Hapag Lloyd took to Facebook, claiming the killing was “an act of self-defense.”
The line insisted the incident was an “accident.”

It’s statement said: “Polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance. To prepare for a shore leave, the polar bear guards go ashore in advance after sighting the landing site as a group and without passengers.

“They then set up a land station and check the area again to make sure that there are no polar bears in sight. As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately.”

The post went on to explain how protocol failed in this case.

“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.

“One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself.

“As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal, unfortunately, were not successful, there had to be intervention for reasons of self-defence and to protect the life of the attacked person.”

Staff, the line maintained, regretted what had happened and are “very aware of their responsibility when traveling in environmentally-sensitive areas.”

Police said the cruise line made nonlethal attempts to scare the bear away before shooting it.

Despite the backlash, Norwegian authorities defended the cruise employee’s decision to shoot and kill the polar bear. Svalbard police spokesman Ole Jakob Malmo told the Associated Press that two members of the cruise’s crew tried to scare the bear away “by shouting and making loud noises.”

Crew members also fired a signal pistol, but their efforts had no effect on the bear.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals encouraged everyone engaging in wildlife tourism to adhere to the codes of conduct so tourism doesn’t negatively affect species.

The 42-year-old guard who was attacked sustained injuries to his head and was airlifted out of nearby Longyearbyen. He is currently receiving treatment and is expected to recover.

Polar bear attacks on humans are rare. But last month, a 31-year-old Canadian father was killed protecting his two young daughters in Canada’s Hudson Bay.