He was flown to hospital on Spitsbergen island, but was not in a life-threatening condition. "In an act of self-defense, unfortunately, it was necessary for the polar bear to be shot dead".
Svalbard is mostly ice - and on the islands, polar bears are thought to outnumber people, the BBC reported. As the cruise line explained via a statement on their Facebook page, "A polar bear guard - an expert employed by the cruise line - was attacked on land by a polar bear". The other guards shot the bear after trying unsuccessfully to evict the animal, the company said.
The Associated Press reports that arctic tourism in the region has risen sharply in the last few years.
"There are very strict rules here as the islands are visited by many polar bears in the summer, so we all need to be vigilant when we are ashore", one guide wrote in a post on Hapag-Lloyd's website.
According to the cruise company's statement: "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".
However, animal lovers including comedian Ricky Gervais have reacted furiously on social media after the German cruise company which organised the trip justified the decision to shoot the bear dead by describing it as "an act of self-defence".
"He was flown out, was responsive, and is now undergoing medical treatment", spokeswoman Negar Etminan said of their employee, adding that the victim was not in a life-threatening condition.
Reaction to the death of this polar bear has been swift.
"Polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance", the company says.
On Twitter, there's been outrage over human intrusion of the polar bear's natural habitat. "Almost every year a polar bear is killed in Svalbard after confrontations with humans or because of safety perspective in the settlements".
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