Cruise line faces backlash over shooting of polar bear

Polar bear killed after attacking cruise ship employee in Norway

The guard was assigned to protect tourists who had landed on Svalbard's northernmost island from the MS Bremen, which is operated by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

The unnamed man in his 40's suffered head injuries shortly after landing on Spitzbergen island.

A Polar bear attacked a German man Saturday while he was leading a group of tourists on an Arctic island between Norway and the North Pole.

Spokeswoman Negar Etminan explained that all of the firm's cruise ships have polar bear guards on board during trips. He was flown out to Longyearbyen and is undergoing medical treatment.

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.

A Hapag-Lloyd spokesman said the bear had been shot by the man's colleague "in an act of self-defence".

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"He was flown out, was responsive, and is now undergoing medical treatment", said Negar Etminan, a spokeswoman for Hapag-Lloyd.

This worker is unidentified but is part of the ship's "Bear Watch Team" - an armed teamed trained to accompany the expedition leaders as they guide passengers on excursions.

Reportedly two guards went ashore in advance of passengers in order to sweep the area for polar bears. "As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately".

All cruise ships sailing in the region were obliged to have polar bear guards aboard, Etminan said. In 2015, Czech Jakub Moravec was pulled out of the tent by a polar bear, but escaped with slight damage.

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

Rising temperature have forced polar bears out of their natural icy habitats and closer to human settlements, reducing their fear of humans.

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