Norwegian diplomats have poked fun at official Australian travel advice on how to avoid a polar bear attack in the Scandinavian country.
Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) softly dismissed tips from Australia’s Smartraveller advisory and consular information service with a light-hearted Twitter response.
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“Thank you Australia for your concern,” Norway’s MFA posted. “We can assure you that in mainland Norway all polar bears are stuffed and poses only limited risk.”
Officials followed up the sarcastic response with a photo of a stuffed polar bear on display in the office of Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg.
The Australian advisory’s Twitter post had failed to clarify that the warning was actually for travellers visiting Svalbard, an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, which has a population of around 2,000 polar bears.
Svalbard is attracting an increasing number of tourists who travel to the Arctic Ocean destination in the hope of catching a glimpse of polar bears in their natural environment.
The advice noted that tourists have been “killed or injured due to polar bear attacks”, adding that avalanches were also a danger and accidents had been reported on glaciers and boats.
“The level of our advice remains at the lowest level,” said Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “Exercise normal safety precautions in Norway.”
There have been a number of polar bear attacks resulting in death or serious injury involving tourists in Svalbard.
In 2011, 17-year-old British schoolboy, Horatio Chapple, was mauled to death by a starving polar bear who attacked a campsite.
“The problem is, when the ice goes, the bears cannot catch food,” a local said at the time.
“People don’t really know how dangerous they are. One came down to the sea recently and people were running down to take pictures.”