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Cause of concern: Polar bears being shot dead in Norway's Arctic worries authorities

Dangerous encounters with humans are getting more frequent as visitors increase and global warming melts the sea ice on which the creatures roam.


Cause of concern: Polar bears being shot dead  in Norway's Arctic worries authorities
Image for representational purpose only

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Remote arctic island in Norway is witnessing more polar bear deaths as the animal is being shot dead rapidly.

Dangerous encounters with humans are getting more frequent as visitors increase and global warming melts the sea ice on which the creatures roam.

Halfway between the northern tip of Europe and the North Pole, the Svalbard archipelago of snow-capped mountains and glaciers is home to 2,654 people and 975 polar bears, according to a 2015 tally by the Norwegian Polar Institute.

"Four polar bears have been shot so far this year," Vidar Arnesen, a chief police inspector for the governor of Svalbard, told Reuters. "In a normal year, one or two would be shot."

"There are more contacts between humans and the animals," he said aboard the Polarsyssel, the governor's ship, used for inspections and rescue operations.

Polar bears are a protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defence and as a last resort. Outside Svalbard's main settlements, people are obliged by law to carry the means to scare the animals away or defend themselves, with authorities recommending they take a gun.

A chain of incidents this year has highlighted the dangers.

In April, police stunned a three-year-old male sighted in the main town on Spitsbergen island, Longyearbyen, and flew him out by helicopter to a more isolated spot. The same month, a group of four Finnish tourists shot a polar bear in self-defence.

They were not fined, as police said they followed proper procedure - to group together and make noise to try and frighten away the animal from at least 200 metres, and only to fire if there is a risk of death or injury to humans.

(With Reuters inputs)

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