From Iceland — Polar Bear Drama Continues

Polar Bear Drama Continues

Published May 3, 2011

The Environment Agency of Iceland has put forward a proposal on reacting to polar bear landfalls in Iceland, recommending that they be shot. A polar expert argues that the killing of polar bears is “unnecessary and illegal”, and Reykjavík’s mayor says he found yesterday’s killing “tragic”, although it seems a few Icelanders have an ace up their sleeve.
As the Grapevine reported, a polar bear was spotted walking along the shore of Hælavík in Hornstrandir yesterday morning. Police were dispatched, and the bear was shot and killed that afternoon.
The killing has prompted mixed reactions from Icelanders, with some arguing the bear should have been tranquillised and then shipped off to Greenland, and others arguing that polar bears are dangerous animals and no chances should be taken. However, many on either side wondered why there is no official plan in place for how to deal with polar bear landings, which have occurred a few times in the past couple years.
Eyjan reports that the Environment Agency of Iceland has given the government a proposal for an official plan of action, which advises first and foremost that polar bears landing in Iceland should be shot to death. That said, the proposal does not rule out the use of a rescue plan for polar bears which would rather contain them and move them out of the country.
Meanwhile, RÚV reports that Húni Heiðar Hallsson, an expert on the polar regions, said that it is “unacceptable” that the government has no plan of action to deal with polar bear landings humanely, adding that the killing of polar bears is both “unnecessary and illegal”. By Icelandic law, polar bears are protected species, and the only condition that allows for the killing of a polar bear is if it poses an immediate threat to people or livestock.
Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr – long an advocate of the humane treatment of polar bears – told Vísir that he found it “tragic that the killing of polar bears is our only resort when they land in this country.”
In the midst of the controversy, a group of volunteers has established The Reykjavík Polar Bear Project, whose goal it is to establish a protected area for polar bears within the city limits. Organisers of the website have promised that an international version will be up soon. You can follow the group’s status and updates on Facebook.

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