British energy giant BP is in the news in the United States for the wrong reasons, again.
A female polar bear was accidentally shot by a security guard working for BP’s security contractor Purcell in the oil-rich North Slope of Alaska on Aug.3. The animal, which belongs to the threatened species, died about a fortnight later, inviting the wrath of wildlife activists.
BP had landed itself in trouble last year after an explosion on its Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and set off the largest oil spill in the history of the United States.
The death of the polar bear has worsened BP's profile in terms of its commitment to the fragile ecosystem of the regions where it operates. It is illegal under federal law to kill polar bears, although people can scare them away by using non-lethal means.
BP said the security guard had tried to scare the animal away when it approached an employee residential area by honking a car horn and using flash lights. He then fired what he believed was a beanbag device, but the gun had been loaded with pyrotechnic cracker shells.
This is not the outcome intended and we feel very bad that this incident has occurred ... BP continues to investigate the matter and will fully support the investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a BP spokesman said.
However, investigations proved that the bear had suffered a projectile wound not consistent with the beanbag ammunition the guard believed he was using, the Daily Mail reported.
This appears to be an isolated unfortunate mistake. Whilst polar bears face so many threats including climate change and oil and gas exploration it is sad that this polar bear was killed unnecessarily. IFAW hopes that BP will learn from this incident, the International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement.
BP has said it has recorded more than 500 polar bear sightings in the last five years across its oil facilities in Alaska and that the accidental killing of a polar bear was the first incident, though security guards have taken resort to hazing quite often.
...Polar bear death is the first time in 35 years of working on the North Slope that a bear has been killed by a security guard working for BP, and we dearly wish it had not happened, the spokesman said.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which is investigating the incident, said the bear died 11 days after it was shot. According to BP, its guards monitored the movements of the bear, which died on a nearby island days later.
BP has not had the best of times recently in terms of its public relations. Its former CEO Tony Hayward had attracted much criticism for some of his public pronouncements regarding the Gulf oil spill. His frequent gaffes and unpopular utterances had earned him the nickname Tony Wayward in the local press.