Rare polar bear sighting on Iceland
REYKJAVIK (AFP) — A polar bear has been discovered on Iceland, which is hundreds of kilometres from the threatened species' natural habitat, a local photographer said Tuesday.
"The bear is in the north of Iceland near the town of Saudarkrokkur," Rax Axelsson, a photographer with Iceland's newspaper of reference, Morgunbladid, told AFP.
"The bear is living off of eggs and birds" and does not appear to be hungry, he added.
The bear was discovered by 12-year-old Karen Heljateynsdottir not far from her farm as she was out walking her dog on Monday.
"She saw something white and thought it was a plastic bag, and then she realised it was a polar bear. She ran home and she said she has never run so fast in her life," Axelsson said.
Polar bears are rare sightings on Iceland, since they have to swim hundreds of kilometres through icy waters to reach the island from their natural Arctic habitats.
The bear discovered on Monday, the second spotted on the island in the past two weeks, could lend credence to warnings from experts that climate change is creating a more perilous environment for the majestic Arctic animals.
A warming climate means the ice -- where the bears usually hunt their favourite prey, the seals -- is receding and literally melting under their paws, forcing them to swim ever greater distances.
Icelandic authorities shot and killed the polar bear discovered in the Nordic country two weeks ago, claiming they were not equipped to safely apprehend the animal.
They have however said they will attempt to capture the second bear, and the chief veterinarian at the Copenhagen zoo is flying in to help.
"The Icelandic authorities asked us for help in catching the polar bear. They don't have the expertise to do it," zoo spokesman Bengt Holst told AFP.
"The plan is to catch the bear today," he said, adding that the Danish veterinarian would attempt to get close to the animal and would put it to sleep using a "special gun."
"Then the Icelandic authorities will make their decision what they are going to do with the polar bear," Holst said, adding that the bear could be sent to Greenland or Denmark.
Icelandic multi-millionaire Bjoergulfur Thor Bjoergulfsson meanwhile said Tuesday his investment firm Novator was willing to pay for saving the bear and transporting it to a safe environment.
Bjoergulfsson "wants to make sure financial issues won't interfere in the decision to keep the animal alive or not," Novator spokesman Asgeir Fridgiarsson told AFP, adding that cost of saving the bear had yet to be estimated.